Juice WRLD, the rapper and singer from Chicago who died in December at age 21, has landed the biggest opening week of the year so far with a posthumous release, “Legends Never Die.”
“Legends Never Die,” compiled from unreleased recordings and featuring guest appearances by Trippie Redd, Marshmello, the pop singer Halsey and others, opened at No. 1 with the equivalent of 497,000 album sales in the United States, according to Nielsen Music. According to Juice WRLD’s record label, Interscope, that is the best opening for a posthumous album since 2Pac’s “R U Still Down? (Remember Me)” in 1997, which the label said started with 549,000.
It is the second time in a row that a release from a recently departed young rapper has topped the Billboard chart — Pop Smoke, who died in February, opened at No. 1 last week with “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” — and helps solidify the superstar legacy of a generation of fast-rising performers who began their careers through online platforms like SoundCloud.
Juice WRLD, whose real name is Jarad A. Higgins, died of an accidental drug overdose during a police raid at Midway Airport in Chicago.
The 497,000 copies that Billboard and Nielsen credited “Legends Never Die” with selling is a composite number, and includes 423 million streams, the biggest such metric this year. It also counts 210,000 copies sold as a complete package, helped by more than 100 retail deals on Juice WRLD’s website that include copies of the album with a variety of merchandise, like $50 hoodies and $15 face masks.
Those kinds of deals have played an outsize role in the charts in recent years, as more and more acts have used deals for merchandise or ticketing bundles to move albums and help with chart positions. But their influence may soon be reduced. In October, Billboard will stop counting albums that are sold as part of a single price through such bundling deals, although artists can still allow fans to buy albums alongside other items.
Also this week, Pop Smoke’s “Shoot for the Stars” falls to No. 2 and the “Hamilton” Broadway cast album drops one spot to No. 3. Lil Baby’s “My Turn” is No. 4 and Post Malone’s “Hollywood’s Bleeding” is No. 5.