When a private plane carrying the popular 21-year-old SoundCloud rapper Juice WRLD landed in Chicago after 1 a.m. Sunday, law enforcement officials were waiting, having received information from a federal task force that guns and drugs might be onboard.
It was during the subsequent early morning search of the plane and questioning of the dozen individuals on the flight from the Los Angeles area that the rapper, born Jarad A. Higgins, began convulsing, said Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, on Monday.
Federal agents quickly administered Narcan, a drug used to revive people thought to be overdosing on opioids, to Higgins, and the Chicago Fire Department was on the scene in under seven minutes, Guglielmi said. But the rapper, who was taken to a hospital, was pronounced dead just after 3 a.m.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday that it could not determine Higgins’ cause of death until additional studies were administered, including cardiac pathology, neuropathology and toxicology. The police said they did not suspect foul play.
But additional details from the Chicago police department about the incident began to fill in some blanks about the sudden death of one of the most promising and commercially successful young artists in hip-hop.
Authorities said that when the plane landed at the Atlantic Aviation hangar at Midway airport, it was carrying approximately 70 pounds of marijuana in 41 vacuum-sealed bags; six bottles of liquid prescription codeine cough syrup; and three firearms, including two 9 mm pistols and a .40-caliber pistol, along with metal-piercing bullets and a high-capacity ammunition magazine.
The plane, a Gulfstream jet, had come from Van Nuys, California, on Saturday. None of the suitcases carrying the drugs had names or personal items attached, the authorities said, and no drug charges have been filed. “As of last night, everybody was being cooperative,” said Guglielmi, the police spokesman.
Two men identified as security guards for Higgins — Christopher Long, 36, and Henry Dean, 27 — were charged with misdemeanors for illegally possessing guns and ammunition. Long was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, while Dean, who had a permit to carry a gun in Illinois, was charged with carrying a concealed firearm at an airport and possessing the ammunition.
Higgins had jumped from the underground world of DIY teenagers on SoundCloud to the pop mainstream last year with the success of his melodic, freestyled rap songs including “Lucid Dreams,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. His second album for Interscope Records, “Death Race for Love,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart in March.
Upon news of his death, the rapper, who turned 21 on Dec. 2, was mourned by his contemporaries, including Drake, Chance the Rapper, Lil Yachty, Ellie Goulding and Camila Cabello. His label called him “a gentle soul whose creativity knew no bounds.” Listeners responded by streaming Juice WRLD music, with half of Spotify’s U.S. Top 10 made up of his songs Monday.