Young Forever: Rae Sremmurd “SremmLife”

B. Michael Payne examines Rae Sremmurd's debut album "SremmLife", cause it's the only life they know.
By    January 20, 2015


B. Michael Payne must stay 500 yards away from the No Flex Zone at all times

You’d be easily forgiven for being confused by the name Rae Sremmurd (pronounced “ray SHRImmerd”). An homage to Raekwon, the chef? A new random letter thing kids these days are into? Well, “Rae Sremmurd” is, of course, Ear Drummers backward. Not that the hella young duo from Mississippi could obscure their affiliation with Mike WiLL’s Interscope imprint. Every song on their debut album, SremmLife, bears the Ear Drummers sonic imprint. After helping to make stars of Future and Miley Cyrus, Mike WiLL has his sights on growing a star in-house.

Rae Sremmurd consists of a pair of brothers, “Slim” Jimmy (sometimes Jxmmi) and Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown. They’re 23- and 21-years old, respectively, but you’d be forgiven for thinking they were teens. Jimmy and Swae started from the bottom, moving often from Texas to California to Maryland to Mississippi. Their delivery comes in yelps and yaps like excited pups. Some of their songs deal with strippers and exes, but they’re bereft of baggage. A Complex piece detailing each song reveals that the young brothers have dated only about three girls between them.

Youth glows from SremmLife like a platinum halo. These guys sound young without sounding callow or juvenile. It’s sort of tacit that rap is a young man’s game. But youth doesn’t translate to youthfulness. Kevin Gates is pretty young. Chief Keef is young. Tyler and Earl are a million years old in blog years, but they’re certainly still young. But unlike most of their contemporaries, Rae Sremmurd both are young and that youthfulness is an artistic strength. The duo’s youth infuses SremmLife with a positive vibe without being doctrinaire.

SremmLife was preceded by a pair of top 40 hits, “No Type” and “No Flex Zone,” and the album moves forward with the brisk pace of non-stop bangers. Even though there are a handful of songs around 5+ minutes long, the album keeps a good forward pace. It almost goes without saying that it’s a front-to-back string of great production from the recesses of Mike WiLL and the EarDrummers crew.

It should be clear that SremmLife is a fun ride, but it’s also a major effort. It boasts guest spots from Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, and Big Sean and production from Mike WiLL (obvi), Young Chop, and Sonny Digital. Based on its top five Billboard debut, it should be a starmaking effort for the young brothers Brown. It’s all inclusive. Lately, highly #relevant stuff like Black Messiah and Run The Jewels have captured the spirit of sadness and outrage in the news. It’s a relief to hear such a well-made album, who’s main ambit can be summed up by its closing track, “Safe Sex Pay Checks.” It’s SremmLife as the good life.

The vocal interplay between Swae Lee and Jimmy is like a wrestling team, tagging each other into the ring to keep their energy to the max. They differ from a similarly high energy group like the Migos the way play differs from easy work. Where other rappers make the best of a Harrison Bergeron existence through gruff effort, Rae Sremmurd float along without effort.

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