Ten years after dropping a debut jam-packed with up-tempo club bangers, the brothers behind Hip Hop duo Rae Sremmurd find themselves genre statesman enjoying every conceivable trapping of success. Channeling the same dizzying energy that fueled their initial ascent, Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee keep the party bumping with Sremm 4 Life. But although the scenery and the musical backdrop is much the same, the brothers tap into a level of introspection that only comes with age that they’ve never quite harnessed before.
Before the release of Sremm 4 Life, it would be reasonable to ask if Rae Sremmurd, who hadn’t released a studio project in four years, could keep that magic going after a straight decade of smash success. The two recently mused about their impact on the culture to Complex, pointing to their flamboyant fashion sense, club shaking melodies, and heavy reverb. As Jxmmi put it: “Anybody could listen to it. My brother, he say this all the time: it doesn’t matter what type of life you’re living, we got music anybody could [listen to]. ‘I ain’t got no type.’ I don’t care what you do, everybody could vibe with that. Male, female, it doesn’t even matter. We make international music that way.”
All those components are present on Sremm 4 Life. From the Mike Will-Made-It produced “Origami (Hotties)” to the Pharrell-powered “Tanisha (Pump That),” the brothers keep working all the tricks that made them stars. The ex-stunting “Royal Flush” with Young Thug, and flex anthem “Torpedo” are clear entries for song of the summer. While it’s apparent certain aspects of the party life are wearing thin, the spoils of success seem to outweigh the drawbacks.
The first real shocker – and brightest highlight – of the album is “Not So Bad (Leans Gone Cold)”, which Jxmmi alluded to while trolling online last month. The long-awaited re-work of English singer-songwriter Dido’s “Thank You” might be the best take on the 1998 pop hit since it was famously used as the basis for Eminem’s smash “Stan.” Paddybeatz and Mike Will Made-It team up on an entrancing beat that serves as a fitting backdrop for Swae Lee’s syrupy delivery of a chorus about a once beloved drug no longer having the same appeal.
The album isn’t all highlights, however. While the collaboration with Young Thug is a satisfying kiss-off to ex lovers, the duo’s meet-up with another frequent collaborator, Future, on “Activate” is less satisfying. That track marks the end of the first half of the record, which is so stacked that it leaves the second act feeling a tad light. And while “ADHD Anthem (2 Many Emotions)” is admirably vulnerable, it feels like an odd note to end the album on. Some rethinking of the track listing might have been in order.
Dismissed at the onset as the next generation’s Kriss Kross, Rae Sremmurd have already surpassed expectations by maintaining mainstream appeal for the better part of a decade. That in and of itself is an achievement in Hip Hop. But the fact that they continue to push themselves to greater artistic heights while remaining true to the irreverent party roots that fueled their initial success – that’s something to admire.