It takes two
Don’t take Rae Sremmurd for granted — just have fun with them
Back in June, during BETX weekend in Los Angeles, Epic Records held a private concert/party — EpicFest — on a Sony movie lot in Culver City, California. Music executives dotted the 300-person-plus crowd — there were great expected performances from Future, French Montana, Kat Dahlia, Yo Gotti and more. And legends were in the cut: There they were, laughing and joking, taking pictures and occasionally dapping each other up.
OutKast. Big Boi and Andre 3000. Reunited. Not in the literal, musical sense. But seeing Big and Dre together once again, even if only for a moment — it felt serene. Nearly 10 years have passed since their last studio album, the critically disputed Idlewild. And two years have passed since their music festival-hopping reunion tour — one Dre was never truly comfortable with. The tour did spur one of rap’s favorite, wishful-thinking pastimes: Maybe if enough people keep saying OutKast will do another album, maybe they actually will.
As of yet, OutKast hasn’t. And it hammers home the notion that nothing stays the same forever. Damn sure not a good musical duo or group. Which brings us to Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi — better known, collectively, as Rae Sremmurd.
The Atlanta duo (by way of Tupelo, Mississippi) released their sophomore album, SremmLife2, last Friday. It’s the follow-up to their massive 2015 debut SremmLife. On the surface, the obvious difference between SL1 and SL2 is texture. SL1 is an 11-track excursion into the truest essence of turning up. It’s littered with club jams and strip club anthems such as “No Flex Zone,” “This Could Be Us,” “Come Get Her” and “Throw Sum Mo,” featuring Nicki Minaj and Young Thug. Jxmmi and Swae’s sophomore effort is also more eclectic — and producer Mike Will Made It once again mans the boards.
“Shake It Fast” featuring OG turn-up king Juicy J already seems primed and ready for the Magic Citys and King of Diamonds of the world. “Start a Party” lives up to its title. “Black Beatles,” which features Gucci Mane, is instantly one of 2016’s finest offerings, a track so convincing and addictive that, in a parallel universe far, far away, perhaps Swae, Jxmmi, Mike Will and Guwop could, indeed, be the trap version of the Fab Four. SL2’s most fascinating moments, though, are far more hazy and melodic. The sequencing transitions between charged up and chill without batting an eye. From the three-track run featuring “Now That I Know” to “Take It Or Leave It” to “Do Yoga,” the vibe changes so abruptly it’s almost like you can see the two leave the alcohol alone — only to follow the blunt into a land of trippy melodies.
Everything about Rae Sremmurd, so far, is a fun experience. A tidal wave of ratchet, 24/7 turnt antics. An entertaining style of NSFW innocence emanates from their music — between clouds of marijuana smoke, bottle sparklers, Snapchat stories and whatever dance craze is the rage at the moment. These (literal) brothers are Ph.D.-level scholars at having fun.
“We was living in this lil’, uh, abandoned house,” Jxmmi said about he and his brother’s days as homeless teenagers. And what’d they do in there? Threw house parties, of course. Ones their neighbors sought to attend. Rae Sremmurd isn’t in the business of pity parties. “We wasn’t gon’ be sad in no abandoned house, ‘cause that’s just gon’ make worse, worse.” Swae Lee added, “It’s like, you know where you gon’ be, so you just staying positive.”
Hip-hop has always been a voicebox for voiceless communities. Artists such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Killer Mike are lauded for their awareness. YG’s FDT has crossed over, in a sense, as a rallying cry for this year’s election. Rap addressing issues normally swept under America’s doormat is, in part, the reason for its creation. The genre was born out of the days of urban renewal politics in the ’70s and the irreversible damage wrought by President Richard Nixon’s administration. Yet, when hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy wanted to throw a “back-to-school jam” in the summer of 1973 at their apartment on 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the West Bronx, New York, politics and legislation weren’t primary reasons.
“Hip-hop did not start as a political movement,” Jeff Chang, author of the award-winning Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, told BBC Culture in 2014. “There was no manifesto. The kids who started it were simply trying to find ways to pass the time, they were trying to have fun.”
Kool Herc likely didn’t envision rap’s idea of fun — 40 years later — in the form of twin brothers from below the Mason-Dixon Line who occasionally write songs for pop artists such as Beyoncé (Formation) and Katy Perry. But Rae Sremmurd is a welcome. In just 18 months, they’ve delivered two albums that stay true to who they are — a feat not necessarily commonplace in the music industry.
In their recent sit down with William Ketchum, Swae and Jxmmi addressed the issue of eventual solo careers head on. “I already know the industry been wanting to ask that question,” Jxmmi said. “The whole industry going to do s— to separate us. We got separate tracks, because we can both rap.”
“When we say solo projects, we say, chances for the fans to get to see us individually,” Swae Lee said. “But we’re still Sremmed out.”
On SremmLife2’s “Came A Long Way,” both Swae and Jxmmi temporarily abandon the club for a moment of introspection. I got a new spot in Cali, but I can’t tell you the addy/ ‘Cause I stay up on the road, raps Swae. If I ever write a book about the s— I been through/ It’d be the greatest story ever told. However long the story lasts as Rae Sremmurd is an answer only life can narrate. Things change, people change and outlooks change. Pusha T and Malice can testify to that. Guru and Premier. Erick and Parrish. Even Run and DMC. Big and Dre, too. Rae Sremmurd isn’t Clipse or OutKast. They’re not trying to be, but let’s recognize true creative musical chemistry — it’s rare. Appreciate that. Appreciate the hell out of it, actually. And give these boys their roses and their swig from the flask while they’re still creating together and partying.
Enjoy the music, whether it lasts another two albums or another two decades. Party to it. With bills, the election and whatever personal lives entail, the only remedy, sometimes, is gathering the troops, calling an Uber, going out and just making sure your keys, phone and wallet are in your possession at the end of the night. Enjoy Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi together. Because one thing’s for sure. They are.
“All my little kid dreams,” Jxmmi said, “I’m living them out.”