Juice WRLD died on Sunday shortly after having a seizure at Chicago’s Midway Airport

By Helen Murphy
December 13, 2019 08:24 AM

Nicki Minaj is paying tribute to Juice WRLD after his tragic death over the weekend.

Minaj, 37, began her speech at the Billboard Women in Music awards on Thursday by honoring fellow rapper Juice WRLD, who died on Sunday shortly after having a seizure at Chicago's Midway Airport.

“I recently had the pleasure of working and touring with Juice WRLD,” Minaj said. “I had a great conversation with him and while we walked to the stage, he held my hand and told me to stay calm and to pray. He said that he had been trying to do just that.”

“I was so shocked to hear him — of all people — tell me that, but right there in that room with him telling me that, I actually did feel calm and I felt like, ‘Hmm… what am I actually worried about?' ” she continued. “I felt like he was a kindred spirit. And looking back now, I wish I did something differently, or said something to help.”

Nicki Minaj; Juice WRLD
Nicki Minaj; Juice WRLD
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images; John Shearer/WireImage

Minaj added: “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.”

“I know this is a women in music night, and I'm so honored to be in the presence of all of these great women … So I know it's about that, but it doesn't feel comfortable for me to talk about me when someone so important to our culture just died,” the musician said. “I want to honor him tonight and send my condolences to him and his family and his girlfriend and his friends and everybody.”

Nicki Minaj accepts the Gamechanger Award
Nicki Minaj at Billboard‘s Women in Music awards
| Credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images for Billboard

Minaj also used her speech to address addiction. On Thursday, Juice WRLD's mother, Carmella Wallace, gave a statement to TMZ explaining that her son — whose real name was Jarad Anthony Higgins — battled with drug addiction.

“I want to tell everyone that ‘Drugs isn't the problem' isn't the way we fix our problem,” Minaj said. “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 that we talk about mental health. It is. Because people are dying because they don't want to express how miserable they are and how much they're suffering, so they'd rather medicate themselves.”

“So I just came here tonight to ask people to be a little bit more forgiving and understanding,” the “Super Bass” rapper continued. “Especially with entertainers. We can't have a bad day … It's abnormal to be ‘on' all the time. But that's what we signed up for. We're not allowed to complain, we're not allowed to be human, we're not allowed to have a bad day. Because we're so ‘blessed.' But that makes absolutely no f—ing sense.”

Minaj concluded: “We're human. All of you in here are human. And you are allowed to be human. And not beat yourself up for doing that. So in closing, I just wanted to encourage everyone to talk about whatever it is that you need to talk about and to be honest and open, and get help.”

Juice Wrld
Juice WRLD
| Credit: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Juice WRLD died on Sunday shortly after having a seizure at Chicago's Midway Airport, according to a report from TMZ. He celebrated his 21st birthday last week. Multiple outlets — including TMZ, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times — report that FBI agents were confiscating drugs and guns from Higgins' private jet when the rapper began to seize.

As agents were searching the plane, Juice WRLD started convulsing and went into cardiac arrest, the Chicago Tribune reported. When police asked his girlfriend Ally Lotti if her boyfriend had any medical issues or had ingested any drugs, she reportedly replied that Higgins did not have any medical conditions, but that he “takes Percocet and has a drug problem.”

Juice Wrld
Juice WRLD
| Credit: Arik McArthur/WireImage

TMZ reports that at some point between the plane landing and authorities conducting their search, witnesses saw Higgins swallowing several Percocet pills in what they believed was an attempt to hide them.

According to the Chicago Tribune, an agent administered Higgins two doses of Narcan, which is an emergency treatment used when opioid overdose is suspected. He then “woke up but was incoherent” as paramedics transported him to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 3:14 a.m. local time.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said they will release a statement regarding Higgins' cause of death when they've completed the additional studies. As of Friday, his cause of death is still under investigation.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.