On Dec. 8, 2019, the hearts of fans around the world were ripped in two following the untimely death of 21-year-old superstar Jarad Higgins, a.k.a. Juice WRLD. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that he passed away from accidental oxycodone and codeine toxicity.

Exactly three years later, in the spirit of turning unspeakable grief into joy, Grade A Productions — Juice’s home record label — held its 2nd annual Juice WRLD Day on Thursday at the United Center, honoring the life and memory of the most beloved young rapper from Chicago who departed too soon.

A line of passionate Juice WRLD fans stretched for nearly three blocks in the cold winds outside the United Center. As soon as fans entered the arena, they were greeted by the voice of the evening’s host DJ Mike P — who deejayed for Juice — and a medley of his greatest hits and best deep cuts. 

Keri Delby, a Juice WRLD fan who was inspired by him to overcome depression, emphasized why his music still means so much to fans.

“That’s my soulmate! He’s done everything for me. His music just changes you. He helped me get through depression, get off drugs, be more productive and find what I really love to do,” she said.

Steven Wazwaz, the owner of Exclusive 773 entertainment, said everyone Juice influenced over the years came together over the positivity he pushed in his music.

“I think it’s a great event because you got everybody coming together, pushing his dream. He pushed positivity. He influenced everybody over the years and it’s definitely a great push,” he said.

Blaring on the aerial center screen was rare and archived footage of Juice’s most intimate moments captured by Grade A Productions videographer Steve Cannon and Juice’s photographer Chris Long. 

After DJ Mike P warmed up the crowd, Juice’s mom Carmella Wallace — who also founded the nonprofit Live Free 999 in his memory — delivered a passionate welcoming address to the masses.

“It touches my heart that his music is still so impactful. And it keeps a part of him here with us. I lost my son three years ago today and [I can] honestly say my life has never been the same but I pushed through,” Wallace said as the crowd roared in support.

“I don’t want you guys to suffer in silence. I don’t want you to struggle. I don’t want you to feel like you’re alone. So please, and my message is the same as it was last year, take advantage of the resources I have for you guys,” she urged everyone.

Throughout the evening, 14 rappers — who were either inspired by Juice WRLD or personal friends with him — performed in the packed-out United Center. From rising stars like Lil Blessin, Tana, DDG, Bankrol Hayden and SleazyWorld GO to his peers and close friends like Cordae, G Herbo, Trippie Redd, Ski Mask the Slump God and surprise guest Lil Durk, each delivered solid and memorable performances with many either premiering new songs or sharing touching moments they had with Juice WRLD. 

On stage, Cordae talked about how Juice shared his tour bus with him once. This was early in Cordae’s career when he was financially struggling. 

Later in the evening, G Herbo performed his touching tribute, “Letter to Juice,” a track from his latest album, Survivor’s Remorse.

Ending the night was a massive set from Lil Durk and his OTF crew. Durk premiered his new single, “Hanging With Wolves.”

Backstage in the locker rooms, many of the performers were mingling, smoking thick Backwoods filled with top-notch cannabis, and hanging out with each other in their respective dressing rooms. Several of them shared words with The TRiiBE about what his legacy means to fans and Chicago.

“Juice WRLD’s legacy is the most phenomenal legacy we’ve ever seen in Chicago. My little brother is now the most highest-paid Chicago artist, top five most streamed ever. I’m getting chills just talking about it. My little brother lost his life so we’re just gonna celebrate it,” G Herbo said.

The Florida-bred Ski Mask the Slump God, who lost both Juice in 2019 and his other friend XXXTentacion in 2018, was shocked to see a larger turnout at this year’s Juice WRLD Day than the one in 2021.

“It’s actually crazier and it doubled! But it makes sense though because it’s like the music has such longevity. That’s what it really was about them. So it’s just a blessing and it’s kind of like a boost kind of deserved,” he told The TRiiBE.

When asked what Juice WRLD would say to them if he were to see this now, G Herbo and Ski Mask each fondly recalled his sense of humor.

“His exact words would probably be, ‘Aye, Herb, you a b-tch,” Herbo said while laughing.

“I think he’d be laughing and telling me to smoke a wood,” Ski Mask added.

Grade A Productions co-founder Lil Bibby was also pleasantly surprised by the large turnout.

“The turnout was crazy, it shocked me! I appreciate everyone for coming out. I wasn’t expecting it to be this crazy, but Juice’s fans always come out,” Lil Bibby said.

When asked why he didn’t expect such a huge turnout, Bibby replied, “It’s been three years! It’s still just as shocking to see it again.” When asked about what Juice meant to hip hop overall, Bibby became overwhelmed with emotion and didn’t want to say more.

Even as Juice WRLD’s former romantic partner Ally Lotti has recently made false claims about his death, his protective fans and friends were largely unbothered.

“That Ally Lotti situation was crazy. I never really liked her in the beginning,” Juice WRLD fan Logan Horvath said. “I don’t know if she’s here tonight, but I hope she’s not.”

When asked about the controversy involving Juice’s former partner, Bibby declined to comment, but he did laugh and reply with, “Go look at her OnlyFans.”

Still, the night went on to be an uplifting evening with attendees feeling the same love that Juice had always extended to those around him.

And Juice’s manager Peter Jideonwo was just as appreciative of those deeply devoted fans and artists who performed in his memory.

“I’m glad everybody came to the show because they love Juice. I’m glad the artists came and supported us. Did it all out of love. We’re gonna keep on keeping his name alive,” Jideonwo said.

You can donate to the Live Free 999 Foundation at livefree999.org/donate/

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.