CHICAGO (CBS) — Much of the music world was in mourning Sunday after Chicago-born rapper and singer Juice WRLD died unexpectedly.
Juice WRLD was Billboard’s top new artist in 2019. He died after reportedly suffering a seizure early Sunday at Midway International Airport.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the death of the 21-year-old rapper, whose real name was Jarad Higgins. An autopsy has been scheduled for Monday.
TMZ reported witnesses saw Juice WRLD suffer a seizure at Midway after arriving on a flight from California early Sunday.
Heartbreaking news this morning. Juice WRLD’s Chicago family was so proud. His aunt just posted this on Friday. pic.twitter.com/i0ARMzPM76
— Jim Williams (@JimWilliamsCBS2) December 8, 2019
The 21-year-old was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn after suffering a medical emergency at Midway around 2:30 a.m., according to police, fire, and medical examiner’s officials. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:14 a.m.
“After arriving in Chicago, Mr. Higgins suffered what appears to be a medical emergency with no obvious signs of foul play,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted. “Individuals aboard the aircraft are cooperating.”
Police said they were awaiting autopsy results on Juice WRLD’s cause and manner of death, and do not anticipate any updates until 3 p.m. Monday.
After arriving in Chicago Mr. Higgins suffered what appears to be a medical emergency with no obvious signs of foul play. Individuals aboard the aircraft are cooperating. We will await autopsy results on cause & manner of death & don’t anticipate any updates until 3pm tomorrow https://t.co/5mJuvx2uLR pic.twitter.com/Ptx5rKyx9O
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) December 9, 2019
Area Central detectives were conducting a death investigation.
Juice WRLD quickly rose to fame with his debut album “Goodbye & Good Riddance,” which reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart in its third week of release in June 2018. His second album, “Death Race for Love,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 2000 in March 2019.
He won the award for Best New Artist this year at the Billboard Music Awards.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reported, Juice WRLD’s track “Lucid Dreams (Forget Me)” has been streamed a billion times and first put the rapper on the map.
But long before hundreds of millions of people were listening on YouTube, Donielle Davenport was listening as an audience of one.
“It’s a little mindblowing that I would listen to it in his headphones,” Davenport said.
That’s because Davenport was the young rapper’s chemistry teacher at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Juice WRLD is a Chicago native, but moved to south suburban Homewood as a child.
Davenport said she’d catch Juice WRLD writing songs when she wanted him to be working on chemical equations.
“I would tell him, you know, ‘Hey Jarad, just finish your work first and then we can talk about music,’” she said.
Davenport said Juice WRLD was “just really fun to be around.” That was exemplified, she said, when he and a buddy decided to take her camera and fill it up with pictures of themselves.
“I really do love all of my students,” she said. “But he held a special place.”
And upon news that Juice WRLD had died after landing a private plane at Midway, Davenport had an immediate involuntary reaction.
“I just started crying. I mean, there’s really other reaction I could have had,” she said.
And it brought her back to her classroom at Homewood-Flossmoor when she posed with Jarad and a couple of friends.
“It just took a little bit to process like, wow, like, he’s gone,” Davenport said.
Juice WRLD was open in his songs and in his words about drug use in the music business. But earlier this year, he told his million Twitter followers that he was done with codeine saying, “Addiction kills all, but you can overcome.”
Davenport says she had hoped to see Jarad again, but now must come to grips that as he all too prophetically sang.
“What’s the 27 club?” he intoned in his track “Legends.” “We ain’t making it past 21.”
And he lived less than a week after turning 21. But Ms. Davenport finds comfort in the fact that he lived out his dream.
“He was like, you know, ‘Miss D, when I make it, I’m going to buy you a Lamborghini!’” she said.
Ellie Goulding, who collaborated with Juice WRLD on the song “Hate Me,” recalled him as “such a sweet soul” in a post on Twitter.
I can’t believe it… you were such a sweet soul. I’ll always remember meeting you and your family on the video set and thinking how close you were. You had so much further to go, you were just getting started. You’ll be missed Juice
— Ellie Goulding (@elliegoulding) December 8, 2019
Chance the Rapper also issued a tweet characterizing Juice WRLD as a “young legend.”
God bless him. A young legend
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) December 8, 2019
Juice WRLD’s label, Interscope Records, also released a statement on Twitter Sunday night honoring eth rapper for making “a profound impact on the world in such a short period of time.”
Juice made a profound impact on the world in such a short period of time. He was a gentle soul, whose creativity knew no bounds, an exceptional human being and artist who loved and cared for his fans above everything else. pic.twitter.com/DsVNGNaMZK
— Interscope Records (@Interscope) December 8, 2019
To lose someone so kind and so close to our hearts is devastating. Our thoughts are with Juice’s family and friends, everyone at his label Grade A, and his millions of fans around the world.
— Interscope Records (@Interscope) December 8, 2019
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)