The last time I spoke with the Milwaukee-bred, New York-based rock-rapper Juiceboxxx, he was only a couple days removed from a Riverwest show where he had brutally bashed his head so hard with his microphone that he sustained a gruesome gash. While he admitted to being a little hazy, the impetus for the interview was a recently released book (The Next Level) written about his breakneck speed and never-give-up attitude.
You don’t quickly forget seeing Juiceboxxx perform live, which is perhaps why a writer felt strong enough to write a book-length essay on the rapper. Juiceboxxx not-so-subtly hits you over the head with his ebullience. And he does so with an absolute confidence that’s downright contagious. Onstage he seems to yearn to break through to the audience and cultivate a cathartic experience in the sincerest way possible. When you’re there, he eagerly wants you to buy in, and that feeling is hard to deny.
His 2012 record I Don’t Wanna Go into the Darkness, synthesized his rapid-fire tendencies with slow-burning, blue-collar, Springsteen-esque anthems. The album ends with “Never Surrender Forever,” which feels like a pact between the singer and the audience that both will keep moving forward together as long as they can. It’s a heck of a closing statement.
“I don’t really know/ But I can’t keep living like this,” Juiceboxxx proclaims on his latest record, July’s Freaked Out American Loser. Throughout the album, the rapper struggles to come to terms with growing older and slowing down. While it’s more contemplative and apprehensive than anything before it, Juiceboxxx also works very quickly and effectively. The mood can’t stay down for too long, as no song passes the three-minute mark.
At the Cactus Club on Friday, September 15, Juiceboxxx remained as affable as ever (and perhaps more self-deprecating). As the show began, he invited an audience member to join him onstage and chug a can of his personal energy drink — a special, limited batch made for the new album. The rapper joked about how silly ideas like these were the reason he remained broke.
But the atmosphere was far from somber. Within seconds, backed by a full band, Juiceboxxx began the show and before long, started running through the crowd, jumping on the merch table and hanging off any ledge he could grasp onto. Midway through the set, he transitioned into a slick cover of Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut.” Even backed with such anxious source material, Juiceboxxx proved that he can still deliver upbeat, unstoppable performances with relative ease.