Release Date: Aug 12, 2016
Record label: Interscope
Early Kris Kross comparisons be damned. Rae Sremmurd became the preeminent hip-hop party duo last year on the strength of SremmLife, a collection of turn-up anthems with crossover appeal stemming from melodic hooks and radio-ready beat selection. Even after the countless release pushbacks, the brothers are ready to live their best lives again with SremmLife 2, a rarely relenting party with more substance than the last.
Listen to the original Sremmlife again, it’s better than you think it is: those synths on the intro are crazy; “Up Like Trump?” is intoxicating; even “No Flex Zone” has aged well despite the overexposure. Hailing from Tupelo, Mississippi, the rap duo Rae Sremmurd, brothers Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee (aged 21 and 22, respectively), took the radio by force in 2014 with deafening back to back hits – it was a genuine rags-to-riches tale penned by prolific Atlanta producer, Mike WiLL Made-It. In a year anchored by Kendrick Lamar’s introspective and politically charged turn on To Pimp a Butterfly, the brothers delivered a defiantly celebratory album packed with anthems.
In 2014, Mississippi rap duo Rae Sremmurd became hugely popular off the strength of oddball party anthems like “No Flex Zone” and “No Type.” The following year’s full-length SremmLife made good on those joyous pop-rap instincts; carried by the outlandish, even cartoonish voices of of brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, they made joyous inclusive rap that produced enough energy to power a city block. Their music was fun, infectious, whimsical, and a potent (if momentary) remedy for agoraphobia. And yet some rap fans cried “foul,” dismissed them as empty-calories frat-rap, a mix of LMFAO’s party rock cut with Ying Yang Twins crunk and packaged in the youthful exuberance of Kris Kross.
It’s unclear if the boys of Rae Sremmurd have grown up much since their debut album dropped in early 2015; they’re still rapping about stealing your girl, doing drugs, constant partying, and not a whole lot else. But clearly the duo, aided by producer/mentor Mike Will Made It, have grown more confident and adventurous, as SremmLife 2 is woozier and more willfully weird than its predecessor, adding up to a party record whose surreal sound should appeal even to those who don’t share the group’s stamina for debauchery. Where SremmLife was energetic and frequently felt over stimulated, the best moments of SremmLife 2 are both more subdued and blurrier.
Rae Sremmurd’s SremmLife was a tremendous accomplishment not just because it had five singles reach the top 100, no small feat on its own, but because nearly every track on the record could have feasibly been released as a single. Among the songs that didn’t chart, there was the Big Sean-assisted nighttime celebration “YNO”, the lurching exuberance of “Unlock the Swag”, and the manic chiptune of “Safe Sex Pay Checks”, arguably the greatest anthem built around promoting contraceptive use of all time. Each of those was as catchy and memorable as “No Flex Zone” or “Throw Some Mo”, proving brothers Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown and Aaquil “Slim Jimmy” Brown were far from one-hit wonders.
Coming two years after they hit big with the singles "No Type" and "No Flex Zone," plus one year after they dropped their debut album, SremmLife, Mississippi rap duo Rae Sremmurd return with more reasons to swag, dab, and chill, but not flex. Kicking off with the aptly titled "Start a Party," this sophomore LP is a much more druggy affair than the duo's debut, as it stumbles up to space like Future on a bender. Highlight "Look Alive," which comes courtesy of the album's main producer Mike Will Made It, glides with an ultra-sheen and a galaxy-sized echo that's as beautiful and as vast as they come, while the Gucci Mane feature "Black Beatles" churns like a robot gone full Terminator as drum machines pound in circles before they fall into a chasm.
Last year, it was impossible to go anywhere — a nightclub, a rooftop barbecue, even the supermarket — without hearing the manically gleeful chants of Rae Sremmurd. The brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi owned 2016 with a fistful of buoyant trap-pop anthems that sounded like an explosion of the Southern teenage id. Kendrick Lamar may have made the best album of the year, and Future may have dazzled the rap world’s influencers.
Dizzy Mississippi brother duo Rae Sremmurd exploded in 2014 with three consecutive Top 40 singles that blurred the lines between melody and rap, pop and trap. Guided mostly by the massive beats of producer and mentor Mike Will Make It, last year's album SremmLife turned those singles into an 11-song formula as reliable as an AC/DC record. For their second act, Rae Sremmurd return a little bit grown — last year's "My X" had a chorus that went "I'm shining on my ex bitch," this year's "Do Yoga" boasts "all my girls do yoga then get high at night" — but they return a lot turnt up.
The twentysomething brothers of Rae Sremmurd spent much of the last two years endearing themselves to young hip-hop fans — and, not coincidentally, making enemies among members of the hip-hop establishment. This duo from Tupelo, Miss., broke out with a string of high-energy singles, including “No Type” and “No Flex Zone,” that showcased Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee’s boundless charisma and intuitive flair for sticky catchphrases. This is a modal window.
To turn up, in Southern rap parlance, is to go over the top, to celebrate wildly, to more or less explode with vim. For the last two years, no hip-hop artists have taken this idea as a mandate more than the two brothers, Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, who form Rae Sremmurd. They have been exemplars of exuberance, pillars of partying. Their full length, debut album, “SremmLife,” was one of last year’s best, a pure distillation of social media-speed culture in which practically every song either was built on a catchphrase or hashtag, or ended up becoming one.
The success of Rae Sremmurd’s 2015 debut album, SremmLife, proves that hip-hop is becoming a little less harsh on “party rappers” these days. Considering hip-hop was built and bred in the clubs and not just in the minds of uber-lyrical street poets, the brothers from Tupelo, Miss. are staying true to the culture’s roots. Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, who are pretty much the definition of party rappers, deliver a short and sweet shot of hip-hop hooray on their last offering but oddly enough find themselves in a little bit of a different place on SremmLife 2.