Nicki Minaj is one of the latest celebrities to pay tribute to the rapper Juice WRLD, who died Sunday at the age of 21. Minaj used her own acceptance speech at Billboard’s 2019 Women in Music ceremony to not only send her condolences to Juice WRLD’s, born Jarad Higgins, family, but to spread a message about the dangers of mental-health stigma. Minaj was being honored with the inaugural Game Changers Award, presented by Normani. Minaj had not spoken publicly about Juice WRLD’s sudden death until her speech. “I recently had the pleasure of working and touring with Juice WRLD,” she began. “I had a great conversation with him one day and while we walked to the stage, he held my hand and told me to stay calm and to pray. He said he had been trying to do just that.”
“I felt like he was a kindred spirit and looking back now, I wish I did something differently or said something to help,” she continued. “He spoke to me in detail about how in love he was with his girlfriend and how passionate he was about music and when he was in the studio with me, he did so many songs so quickly. He was honest and pure about what he felt and that inspired me.”
Juice WRLD, best known for the song “Lucid Dreams,” died after suffering a medical emergency during a federal search at Chicago Midway International Airport on December 8, Nicki Minaj’s birthday. Juice WRLD had just turned 21 six days prior. Earlier this year, he and Minaj did a 19-stop tour in Europe, called the Nicki WRLD Tour. It would be his first and last time touring.
“I want to tell everyone that drugs isn’t the problem, it’s the way we fix our problem,” Minaj added, after acknowledging all the inspiring women in the room. “So, it’s so important that we don’t pass judgment so that people don’t feel ashamed to speak up and ask for help. It’s so important we talk about mental health.”