Confessional lyrics have long been a touchstone of hip-hop, but “emo rap,” the subgenre that indicates more of an affinity for Dashboard Confessional and New Found Glory than Tupac and Biggie, feels like it’s barely started. It’s a promising and inevitable subgenre, but with some of its biggest stars, Lil Peep, XXXTentaction and Lil Uzi Vert passed away, passed away and (apparently) retired, someone needs to be its face. Juice WRLD is our placeholder of an emo rap ambassador, and Death Race for Love is him doing everything he can to get our attention.

After a busy 2018 that saw Juice give the world halfway-decent debut album, a sedative of a collaboration with Future, and a charismatic feature on the only song on Lil Yachty’s last album worth revisiting, Death Race for Love acts as a preemptive fire sale for any scrap of an idea he has. The 22 tracks across 72 minutes start off as digestible before turning so rancid, the urge to reach for the Listerine is strong by the time it all wraps up.

Juice’s default delivery is pained, but it’s more physical than emotional. He lays heavy on the despondency (“I feel so goddamn empty” he states on the sensibly-titled ‘Empty’) but he sounds more like he has a stuffed nose and constipation. When he raps/sings, every word is strained to the point that it all becomes interminable. Late album cut, ‘They Won’t Let Go’ offers this winner: “They tell me life is a riddle/I found the answers on her tongue in the middle of kissin'”. If this is supposed to be a moment of (clumsily-phrased) cathartic glee, his curdled delivery suggests he didn’t give himself the memo.

The first five tracks, while nothing spectacular, at least have some heart, like on ‘Fast.’ Juice’s bars are obvious and frequently cringy, but when he puts himself into a verse like “I go through so much, I'm 19 years old/It's been months since I felt at home/But it's okay 'cause I'm rich/Psych, I'm still sad as a bitch, right”, you can feel he’s at least trying to convey something. Death Race goes into freefall the further it goes, as Juice becomes a more noxious narrator and his lyrics become LiveJournal poetry that makes all the other LiveJournal poets feel better about their abilities. (“In love with all your flaws and sins. Your scars are really gorgeous. Ain’t that a weird way to give compliments?”). It’s even worse when he tries to be funny, as he has absolutely no idea how to deliver a punchline or come up with anything remotely clever or timely (“You ain't dealin' with a rookie/But I'm fresher than a fuckin' rookie, oh/You be in Jersey like you Snookie (Snookie, Snookie”))

Both hip-hop and emo have a history of misogyny, with the latter’s scrutiny long overdue, mainly because of being made by almost-exclusively white men. Both genres have songs that are great in spite of their views of women, not because of them. This album is full of songs that are practically misogyny incarnate, performed by someone with so much insolence and so little self-awareness that the very idea of a mea culpa would never cross his mind. “I figured she was gonna break my heart regardless. So I took her out and dumped her in the garbage/The stupid bitch done turned herself into a target,” he sneers on the long-overdue closer ‘Make Believe,’ which attempts to namecheck/co-opt ‘Stan’ as if association with Eminem’s classic will make it anything not wretched.

If there’s anything commendable about Death Race for Love, it’s how many ways it finds it to be terrible. Most bloated, unsuccessful albums just turn into background noise around the halfway point. Not only is Juice’s voice unpleasant, his lyrics awful and his personality repugnant, but his songs are also structured like he has no idea where they’re going. The word “indulgent” comes to mind frequently with extended, instrumental outros that pad out the runtime for no reason. On an album of perpetual low points, it hits absolute bottom with ‘The Bees Knees.’ He doesn’t even manage to produce a passable track about being hot shit, and the switch from the initially grimy beat into something more mellow is beyond dispiriting, as you realize just how much of the nearly five-and-a-half minute runtime is left.

Barely into his twenties, Juice’s petulance isn’t why his music is so insufferable. Immaturity and regrettable thoughts can create masterpieces in a wide range of genres. But at its core, Death Race for Love feels less like music and more like a cynical attempt to bring out the worst in both emo and rap. If that was the intent, then well done Juice WRLD, well done.