By: David Benzar
If you came here looking for the next great lyricist of the rap game, I’d suggest you return to the comment section of Youtube where you might have gave the “thumbs up” to that one guy who wrote, “I was born in the wrong generation. Like this if you wish real hip-hop was still alive. RIP Pac and Biggie.”
Hype. Energy. Charisma.
This is where Rae Sremmurd’s Sremmlife excels, and where the Brown brothers, Khalif “Swae Lee” and Aaquil “Slim Jxmmi” place their own landmark on today’s hip-hop scene. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Kriss Kross and Lil Jon, two artists known for creating a sound that have projected stills of their rap-life hyphy habitat, the Rae Sremmurd duo birthed a style so unique that it is undoubtedly a timestamp of today’s attitude and carefree lifestyle.
Rae. Ear. Sremmurd. Drummers. Rae Sremmurd. Ear Drummers. A name so ridiculous that it is almost clever (Shout out to Flo-Rida, long time resident of you guessed it, Florida), it has to represent a couple guys barely wrapping up their high school careers before embarking on a skyrocketing rap career. It’s important to understand that they didn’t come into the game intending to be next Tupac or Aesop Rock. They wanted to make music that would give insight into their style. Lyrically, you will find a plethora of content revolving around money, girls, sex, partying, alcohol, and a lavish life. No, this album will not be used as inspiration for representing the great philosophers of our century, but the value of fun, in the most wild and hype way, should not be diminished and can be discussed at length (which I am about to do, but stay with me). That party life has a time and place, and this Sremmlife could provide a proper blueprint.
This is high-energy music that will undoubtedly have you bumping your head in all directions. Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi compliment each other by raising the bar of charisma a duo can bring to a track, especially when matched with beats tailored by their mentor of the rap game, Mike Will Made It. It is he who actually created the sub-label “Ear Drummers”, so hopefully you can make the connection. An ultra popular producer in today’s age, it is no surprise to see him as the mastermind behind this collection of songs. You might have heard of that one song of his “23” that a certain Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, and Juicy J collectively blew to astronomical levels of mainstream success is just a recent example of Mike Will’s ability to conjure up music that the masses will listen to, whether they want to or not, hate it or love it. The beats in Sremmlife lay the foundation for the environment you should be playing these songs in. Perfect for leaving behind the deep meaning often yearned for in music, and trading it in for background music as to embark on a crunk, late-night adventure. With an obvious deep southern influence rapping (Check out track #4, “My X”, for an Atlanta inspired Nae Nae type track) over heavy banging, cohesive beats, each song will sound different, with only a catchy hook and highly variable notes hit in each verse being guaranteed (See track #7 “Up like Trump”).
That being said, this album is not without faults. The cons are:
-Substance. If meaning, direction, and knowledge is desired, this album would be the equivalent of your average vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian Seattleite checking out the local rib joint. It’s not even just the topic of the content, but also the originality to the tracks. A lot of this exact content has been repeated in rap, so if they fail in the slightest to add their own twist at moments, it falters. I would attribute some of the shortcomings to the mainstream appeal this piece of work is geared toward, as well as the experience or maturity these two rappers have yet to acquire. This is not an album that encourages responsible behavior, except maybe the use of condoms.
-Fillers. As with so many albums today, artist liberty can be marginalized in order to accomplish the demands of a label. Tracks like “Unlock the Swag”, “Safe Sex Pay Checks”, and “YNO” occasionally lack true presence and control over their given instrumentals with highly repetitive hooks that also lacked originality despite the attempted compensation with their unique flow and delivery.
-Singles. The released singles “No Flex Zone” put Rae Sremmurd on the map. With huge proportion of listeners instantly categorizing the duo to be the next big one hit wonder, they quickly dropped “No Type”. By reminding us they have no type, and that bad b****** are the only thing that they like, Swae and Slim exemplified how to straight flex on everyone by creating easily their most popular hit. Over 130 million views on YouTube isn’t so shabby for two guys who hail from Tupelo, Mississippi, home to a grand 35,000 people. The final single, “Throw Sum Mo” featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug, the brothers Brown showed they could handle their own on a track in terms of rhymes, flow, and even weird voices with the king of such tone, Thugger himself.
-Synergy. Rap duos have existed since the beginning of the rap game, but it would be as “ignant” as some of these songs to not realize the chemistry these two brothers demonstrate. Swae Lee glides and hops over each beat while intertwining with Slim Jxmmi’s rougher delivery approach in order to create the distinguishable Rae Sremmurd sound.
-Features. All rappers want to make it big, and an easy but expensive method to achieve success can be hiring tons of currently popular artists to feature in their work. At the same time collaboration is a part of hip-hop that makes it special, so this album is not without a few big names including Big Sean and Jace of two-9, in addition to the previously mentioned Nicki Minaj and Young Thug. Every feature is on point filled with great quotes such as “Players only live once so I wear POLO” (Big Sean), and Jace of two-9’s verse should be highlighted for matching the flow of the beat to perfection. The beauty of this album is that the four features are distributed among three tracks out of total eleven. By keeping the features to a minimum, it allows the qualities of the album’s creators to shine through without the dilution of other artists. Sremmlife forced listeners to anticipate the album based off of proven individual work (See No Flex Zone and No Type).
I would like to now draw attention to my favorite song on this album. It is track number five, a rather hidden gem halfway through the album. “This Could Be Us”. If you have ever been on twitter, reddit, facebook, or probably even LinkedIn, you have seen memes before. This track title should then stand out to you as the title of a recently popular meme. Some might think it cool to name a song after such an internet fad, while others consider more evidence toward the argument of ridiculous idolization of such an obviously young and corny rap gimmick. It starts off with a simple sequence of simple piano notes, singing of simple tones, followed by the mandatory and signature “MikeWillMadeIt” DJ tag. The typical topics of haters, cash ruling everything around them, girls, girls dancing among other things for money, and drinking alcohol that I’m not sure Swae and Slim are allowed to be sipping on yet all make an appearance. But they are enveloped so smoothly into a track that has a very upbeat and pleasant melodic beat along with verses that are sung. Then the chorus hits with a hook so catchy it might as well be a masterball securing Pokemon on your Gameboy. It shows hints of emotion, and jealousy in the midst of confidence and bravado, which leads me to think these guys that make up Rae Sremmurd might be a little more relatable than I originally thought. Sure, they go on to bring up the legendary game of “Spin the Bottle”, but that just states, “Hey, this is us. We are young, but we are here, coming up in the rap game at 18 years old as certified rockstars. We are still young bloods, and that might evolve later, but this is our life right now, and we want to share it with you.” So go give it a listen.
Rae Sremmurd presents Sremmlife and all I can say is Sremm is life.
If you hated this, loved this, have questions, or want to come listen to Sremmlife and other hippity hops, comment or hit me on twitter (@classylikebenz)
~Shoutout to the pears and pandas