During my time with Juice, he is virtually inseparable from girlfriend Lotti. I constantly spot them sneaking off to smooch. Juice, in the middle of answering questions, reaches out his hand for hers like he’s Jack bobbing in the sea, about to float away without her. The behavior fit nicely with the vision of Juice I’ve imagined in my head: someone who pulls from the extremes of his emotions, whether that’s cratering heartbreak or bloodthirsty infatuation (“If she leaves, I’ma kill her,” he raps at a particularly low point on “Fine China”). These are the sort of emotional poles Juice bounces between and often mines while making hit songs and albums.
Early on in our interview, still on the top floor of Dover Street, Juice WRLD pulls out his phone; he wants to show me something. Have I heard the leaked Imogen Heap song “A New Kind of Love”? He presses play and starts singing along. “This song is so fire,” he says. Then he starts to reminisce.
He and Lotti had started messaging on Instagram a year ago, after she’d slid into his DMs: “Good music,” Juice recalls. “Keep it up, kid.” Juice, a famous musician with a mega-hit under his belt, was reduced to a hard-crushing 19-year-old kid. A few months later, while on tour, he drives to Providence, Rhode Island to meet Lotti for the first time. It’s raining, because of course it’s raining, and on the drive to her hotel Juice puts on Imogen Heap’s “A New Kind of Love” and lets the butterflies flutter around in his stomach. They meet. It goes well, he thinks. “I was going to leave the hotel room, write her a note: ‘Did you like me?’ Yes or no, circle, and just slide that under the door,” he says. “If you like me, still be here when I get back upstairs. And if you don’t, I’m sorry. You’re pretty. Bye!”
She didn’t leave. They spent the next four days together. Lotti was living in Memphis at the time. Owned a house there, actually, where she lived with her two dogs. She hasn’t been back since. Shortly after those four days, she moved out to L.A. with Juice. She had all her stuff, including her two pups, shipped out.
“You guys think it’s funny but it’s how it happened,” she says while Juice playfully pokes at her stomach.
That story—all his stories, his shopping, his rocket-like rise—means that I believe him when Juice says that this last year has taken on a dreamy surreal state. Like he could wake up at any minute back in his bedroom in Chicago without any of the hits, without the number-one album, the fame, and the fortune. And most crucially, in the kind of twist that would fit in a Juice WRLD song, without Lotti. “I would instantly start looking for her,” he says. He drafts a hypothetical message as back-to-the-future Juice: “Like, ‘Yo, you may not realize it now, but later on…’” It makes sense: you don’t make music this straightforwardly aching by focusing on becoming a star. You focus on the girl, the heartbreak, the does-she-like–me-like-me of it all. The hits are nice, but the heartbreak is the thing.