Rae Sremmurd, Swae Lee & Slim Jxmmi – SR3MM
Genre: Rap, R&B
The industry has officially entered the streaming era, where the more songs you include on your album, the more streams you get, which now count towards official album sales. Many recent albums have overblown themselves with excessive tracks to better their sales, such as Migos’ Culture II (24 tracks), Drake’s Views and More Life (20 tracks, 22 tracks), and Chris Brown’s astonishingly long Heartbreak on a Full Moon (45 tracks). So it makes sense that Rae Sremmurd’s ambitious method of releasing their latest album, SR3MM, as three albums each—Rae Sremmurd’s album, Swae Lee’s solo album, and Slim Jxmmi’s solo album—would be in the form of all three in one package, rather than each one being separate, totaling up to 27 tracks. Yet, what separates SR3MM from everything else in this recent trend is that, with each album split up, it allows it to avoid getting bloated and rather allows the duo to have fun with sequencing and structure, and to be able to treat each album as its own, instead of just coming across as one long, bloated collection of songs. So would it have been more convenient to release each album separately? Perhaps so. But the ambitious concept and the prospect of treating each album as its own allows room for SR3MM to ultimately work.
Over the years, Rae Sremmurd have built themselves a reputation as the prominent party-starters of modern rap music, delivering a nonstop stream of fun, endlessly catchy anthems on their previous two efforts, 2015’s SremmLife and 2016’s SremmLife 2, with the latter boasting one of the hottest singles of the year in the ubiquitous “Black Beatles”. Over the durations of these past two albums, the duo’s two members have each established their own unique styles, with Swae Lee offering melodic, stay-in-your-head sing-raps, and Slim Jxmmi offering more aggressive, fast-paced raps. These seemingly contrasting styles have built the duo great chemistry, but it would make sense for them to expand these styles on their own. It can be tempting to immediately draw comparisons to OutKast and their 2003 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, also made up of a solo album from each member and even reflecting Sremmurd, with André 3000’s experiments with singing and Big Boi sticking to charismatic player raps similar to the efforts of Swae and Jxmmi. But the singularity of each disc on SR3MM calls for no comparisons, each one existing in a different world from each other and further proving that they have the range to fill up three discs with diverse, interesting results each time.
This begins with Swae Lee’s solo disc, unofficially titled Swaecation. Swae has proven himself as one of hip-hop’s finest crooners, using his smooth voice to balance out the aggression of Sremmurd’s biggest hits. While Swaecation does still somewhat rely on production to carry itself and fails to consistently keep Swae’s voice as a standout throughout, Swae is still able to use his voice to instill feelings of young lust into breezy, lusciously crafted pop records. Swaecation works best when pairing melodic R&B beats with Swae’s crooning, rather than the trap beats found elsewhere on SR3MM, shown on tracks like “Red Wine” and “Touchscreen Navigation”. The latter is a particular standout, utilizing nostalgic ‘80s-style synths and drum machines with Swae’s flourishes of falsetto. Tracks like these further showcase Swae’s mastery of captivating hooks and melodies, making Swaecation a tender, intoxicating exploration of longing and lust, perfect for lonesome summer nights.
However, what SR3MM really proves is Slim Jxmmi’s growth as a singular rapper. Whereas Swae had already made a name for himself by stealing the spotlight on both Sremmurd songs and features for other artists, Jxmmi had always seemed to play more of the background role, often not shining a light on Jxmmi’s talent for charismatic, quotable bars. This talent is finally able to come into its own on Jxmtro, with Jxmmi showcasing his evolution with even more force and charisma. His topics of discussion are limited, opting for all-too-familiar themes of money, women and fast cars. It’s his forceful, convincing, playeristic attitude that comes alongside it that makes it so enjoyable. Hedonistic quotables are delivered in a stream over aggressive trap production from the duo’s go-to producer Mike WiLL Made-It; “I don’t even keep a wallet ‘cause the cake don’t fit”, he raps on “Juggling Biddies”; “I feel like JAY Z the way I’m pullin’ strings”, he raps on “Changed Up”. Every bar Jxmmi spits is charismatic and energetic, and much more than past Sremmurd records. With all this time and space allotted to him, Jxmmi is finally able to showcase his growth and come into his own on Jxmtro.
However, the strongest of the three is undoubtedly SR3MM, the collaborative side. Sremmurd have built their reputation by being able to play off each other’s styles effortlessly and seamlessly, and not only is that on full display here, it’s in some ways even better this time around. The hedonistic debauchery is lightened by bounding energy and cohesive oversight from Mike WiLL Made-It. “Buckets” makes its topic of promethazine intake into one of the most energetic bangers of the year, balanced out with basketball references and a Future verse. “Rock N Roll Hall of Fame” is in some ways a revamped “Black Beatles”, with Swae Lee dominating the first half before colliding with Slim Jxmmi over an infectious guitar line. Yet “Powerglide”, even having been released as a single beforehand, is still perhaps the finest song. The duo effortlessly rides the grand production, built off a flip of Three 6 Mafia’s “Side 2 Side”, with neon-lit magnetism, before Three 6’s own Juicy J joins in for a verse. Not only is it simply one of the most fun songs in a while, but with two different generations of rap colliding successfully, it pushes the trap subgenre towards even greater heights. SR3MM proves that the duo has always been best when working together, even over a limited slot of 9 songs.
Triple albums are not only an anomaly in hip-hop but in modern music in general. When mentioned, the term usually conjures up images of George Harrison’s 1970 classic All Things Must Pass, or The Clash’s wildly ambitious 1980 effort Sandinista!, or Grateful Dead’s landmark concert album Europe ‘72. All of these albums are indeed masterpieces, but messy masterpieces at that, usually containing a few songs too many. What separates SR3MM from these is its concision. Even with each disc technically existing apart from each other, there’s still hardly a bad song to be found in the bunch. Every song here has a purpose, and fits right in alongside the others. Surely Rae Sremmurd wouldn’t be a name expected to be mentioned in the triple-album collection, but in the streaming era, where the more songs equals more streams, SR3MM stands out even more, with few of the recent albums in this trend matching its cohesion. If their previous two efforts established them as the resident party-starters of modern rap, then SR3MM further sets them apart from the crowd, proving that they can be able to split for solo albums and also retain the chemistry that made them great in the first place. In both the streaming era and the triple-album collection, there’s nothing quite like it out there.
Photo courtesy of Interscope Records