When December rolls around, it’s a time of both celebration and mourning for Juice Wrld fans. The month marks not only his birthday—he would’ve been 25 years old this year—but also the anniversary of his death. Four years have passed since the effervescent rapper was freestyling at any given moment on Instagram Live, but his mother, Carmela Wallace, continues to keep his name and legacy alive through Live Free 999, the charitable organization she created in his honor. The foundation provides positive avenues and preventative measures to address mental health challenges and substance dependency. Carmela speaks with XXL about some of the remarkable initiatives that have taken place through Live Free 999 this year as well as Juice Wrld Day, the brewing company she’s building in the neighborhood he grew up in and the highly anticipated Juice album that his loyal supporters have been clamoring for.
This Saturday (Dec. 16), Juice Wrld Day, a global celebration of his life, takes place at the United Center in Chicago. The third annual event features a concert with performances from some of Juice’s rap friends like Ski Mask Slump God, Trippie Red, G Herbo and DJ Scheme, along with artists A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Luh Tyler and Lucki, among others. While the event is the brainchild of Lil Bibby and George “G Money” Dickinson of Grade A Productions, the label Juice was signed to in partnership with Interscope Records, Carmela is also on the ground at the venue each year connecting with her son’s fans.
“I use it as an opportunity just to touch the people that Jarad touched, to touch his fans,” she tells XXL. “He just always had words of life. I like to go there on behalf of Jarad and just carry on his message: you’re not alone. Just give me an opportunity just to connect with them, and give them a little something. ’Cause they just wanna hear something, ’cause Jarad was just so impactful. He touched so many people. That day is just really special for them. It’s a chance for fans to come together and the great things that he did. It’s a big deal for them and its a great opportunity for me just to come and talk to them and be a part of them honoring my son.”
The ways in which Carmela Wallace is continuing to honor her son in the public space on a regular basis is through Live Free 999’s financial grants and partnerships. This year, she donated $100,000 to local and national organizations addressing mental health and substance abuse for World Mental Health Day in October. She also partnered with Juice Wrld’s former school, Homewood-Flossmoor High School, for the Bring Change to Mind High School Program. The school club provides teens with a platform to share their voices and raise awareness around mental health and self-care.
“I think it’s really one of the most impactful things this year, adding them to the mix, you know, making it more personal,” she shares. “Because my goal was to, yeah, we give a lot of donations, but my goal is to be more on the ground, too. I mean, money is good, organizations definitely need the funding, but I want to be visible. I want to be engaged, feet on the ground, you know, to really be involved with what’s going on.”
Students can also look forward to a new recording studio that will be built at the school through a donation from Live Free 999. Besides playing piano, handbells, guitar and bass drum during his formative years, Juice Wrld also played in the marching band at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Then came his passion for rapping. Building a studio at his alma mater is certainly fitting.
“What’s so great about his high school is that they’re gonna have a recording studio put in, but they’re actually gonna have a curriculum built around it,” Carmela reveals. “So, it’s not just like somebody is coming to just make music, but it’s gonna be a part of a program that really prepares them if somebody wants to go in that area. I think it’s gonna be really great to do that. And recording music was so special to Jarad. So, to be able to go back to his high and build a studio for them, that’s pretty awesome.”
As she oversees the Juice Wrld estate, Carmela has remained dedicated to fulfilling Juice’s love of music in different ways. She leaves the hands-on creation of putting a posthumous Juice Wrld album together to Lil Bibby of Grade A Productions. But she’s certainly aware of what’s going on with the process. Following Legends Never Die in 2020 and Fighting Demons in 2021, The Party Never Ends is the next posthumous album to add to Juice’s legacy. His mother knows how badly fans want the upcoming project. However, she has a simple request to make sure the album arrives without any further delays. She’s hopeful that it will be released in 2024.
“I know that Brandon, [Lil] Bibby is putting in a lot of work to make it really good,” she reveals. “I mean, he’s really committed and dedicated to being proud of it, you know, he puts a lot of time and effort into what he produces, so, I know that the love is there. I know that the commitment is there and I know he wants everything to be perfect, you know. So, it’s coming and people should stop stealing music. I just have to throw that in there, too, because that messes up things as well. People want stuff they haven’t heard, but, you know, that’s an issue, but he’s working through it and it’s coming soon and it’s it’s gonna be, it’s a work of love. I think he’s proud of the progress he’s making on it, but it’s going to be great. So, they just have to be just a little patient, you know, and let it go through the process, but it’s coming soon.”
Live Free 999, Juice Wrld Day and a new album aren’t the only things attached to Juice’s name. Last year, Carmela broke ground on Homewood Brewing Company, located in their old neighborhood in Homewood, Ill. The restaurant and brewery is being launched as another addition to the rapper’s legacy. Juice Wrld loved Homewood and would come back home “even when he was famous,” according to his mom. Longtime supporters of the Death Race for Love artist will be pleased to find out that the Juice Wrld mural that was painted over in Chicago earlier this year will get a new life at this establishment.
“We’re trying to be fun, have good food, good service and fortunate enough to get the artist who did the mural of him here that got painted over, but we have him,” she says of Homewood Brewing Company. “So we’re going to have a mural and stuff to tribute to Jarad. They can look forward to great food with fresh ingredients, farm to to table. We’re making our own beer, so fresh craft beer and just a really great experience. It’s that third place, you know, where you you don’t want to go home, but you want to go home.
Homewood Brewing Company will open in spring or summer of next year.
Check out Carmela’s full interview with XXL as she details the admirable work she’s doing with Live Free 999, the pop-up therapy experiences she plans to launch, why she continues to share personal photos of her son with the fans on social media and much more below.
See Photos of Juice Wrld Over the Years
What’s your favorite Juice Wrld photo?
Author: Georgette Cline