SremmLife, Rae Sremmurd
The debut album SremmLife from the Atlanta hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd (it’s “Ear Drummers,” the name of their label, spelled backwards) is a triumph, because the two are simply overflowing with joy, charisma and youthful energy. It’s more than enough to carry SremmLife through its less inspired moments.
Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, the two brothers that comprise Rae Sremmurd, are 21 and 23, respectively, but they seem even younger. Their pubescent squeaks and squawks come off as strangely endearing, as if they’ve tapped into some wellspring of adolescent energy. More than anything, the two exude earnestness: The squeakiness isn’t an affectation but a byproduct of their excitement. Not that it’s all unintentional. Heirs to a long tradition of vocal experimentation by the likes of Lil’ Wayne and Young Thug, they’re both more than willing to stretch their voices out and bounce them around. On “No Flex Zone” Slim Jimmy goes from a shrill yawp to a growl within seconds, and Swae Lee does some passable, albeit autotune-assisted, singing on several hooks, including those for “No Type,” “This Could Be Us” and “Come Get Her.”
Rae Sremmurd’s lyrics can read as immature. “I make my own money so I spend it how I like,” Swae Lee pouts on “No Type” “I’m just living life/And let my momma tell it, n—a, I ain’t living right.” He’s no Jay-Z, but he’s not trying to be, either. The lyrics aren’t really that important. What matters are sound, energy, vibes. “Killing someone’s vibe should be a f—ing crime,” he says in “This Could Be Us.” In other words: It’s not what they say, it’s how they say it.
The album’s first two singles, “No Flex Zone” and “No Type,” are distillations of Rae Sremmurd’s better tendencies. The former is a gleeful romp over a tiptoeing Mike WiLL Made-It beat that starts with Swae Lee declaring that it’s “been two days since I’ve laid down.” More than any other track, “No Flex Zone” showcases the two rappers’ respective vocal styles: Swae Lee’s precocious notes and Slim Jimmy’s more manic tone. “No Type” is a little more spacious and slowed-down, and the lyricism here is less engaging than that of “No Flex Zone,” but it has an irresistibly catchy hook and a simple, appealing premise: “I ain’t got no type/Bad b—-es is the only thing that I like.”
None of SremmLife’s other tracks quite equal the two fantastic singles that preceded the album, but a few come close. “This Could Be Us” and “Come Get Her” are two of the album’s more melodic cuts; “Yno” is a straightforward (but nonetheless enjoyable) banger with a verse from Big Sean. On the weaker side, “Unlock the Swag” and “My X” are almost painfully repetitive, and “Throw Sum Mo” completely fails to make anything interesting out of its Nicki Minaj and Young Thug features.
Ultimately, Sremmlife is held back by the very energy that makes it so appealing: It’s a fun record, but one without much lyrical or conceptual weight to hold it down. “Fun” doesn’t necessarily entail staying power; if Rae Sremmurd wants to stick around, they have some growing up to do.