by Lane Yates ’18
If you paid attention to social media this summer, I’m sure you’re aware of the single-producing powerhouse that is Rae Sremmurd — Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, backed by Mike Will Made It and the Ear Drummers collective. The duo exploded onto the scene of mainstream party rap with the contagious songs “No Flex Zone” and “No Type” that backed many a vine floating around the World Star Hip Hop scene later in 2014. These guys aren’t afraid to embrace the lifestyle of the newly famous. They celebrate, rather than condemn, their lifestyle in a way that feels truly genuine. When I listen to Sremm Life, I get the sense that Swae and Jimmy aren’t afraid to celebrate. They’ve made it. This album is an invitation to enjoy a lifestyle that might seem vapid, but is, at the end of the day, a hell of a lot of fun.
Rae Sremmurd and the Ear Drummers collective understand the components of an enjoyable party rap song. Most of the tracks that follow the formula set up by tracks like “No Flex” and “No Type” lead to a fantastic listening experience. This “hype” makes me forget about wanting anything deeper than a track about girls or a track about partying with friends. While lines like “Test this cup / Do it for us” off of “Lit Like Bic” don’t contain much substance or real meaning outside of “turning up,” that’s kind of the point. Rae Sremmurd is all about style. The delivery is what matters, rather than the content of the songs. There isn’t exactly a labyrinth of meaning under the surface of this release. It’s hype. It’s energetic. Quite simply, its a fun time. Even songs that get slightly monotonous during the verses like “This Could Be Us” feature hooks that make you forget about the sometimes weak lines Swae and Jimmy deliver. Of course, this is not to say that the lyrics of Sremm Life should be condescended or overlooked. The songs’ strong hooks overshadow their verses, but Swae and Jimmy have specific styles that are both entertaining and distinguishable. They have a classic harsh/soft relationship, with Jimmy on the louder end, and Swae on the soft. They compliment each other and switch up the pace of the album, making it a dynamic experience.
Unfortunately, the Sremm formula is not an assured hit. Songs like “Unlock the Swag,” “Come Get Her,” and “My Ex” feature hooks that lack the flair of some of Rae Sremmurd’s more stylish tracks. Aside from the deeply sexist nature of “My Ex” and “Come Get Her,” these songs are just thematically out of place. “Come Get Her” features Swae singing in a cadence straight from 2000. “My Ex” is a party track about “shining on your ex bitch,” which is just about as problematic as it sounds. Finally, “Unlock the Swag” features a laughable sort of channeling ritual I image Swae and Jimmy perform before ever party they attend. These songs are pretty much at the bottom of the barrel on this album, but the bright side is that while these tracks aren’t that enjoyable, they aren’t meant to be taken that seriously. I don’t really think Rae Sremmurd takes much seriously at all. This might seem like a jab, but it’s definitely part of what makes Sremm Life so charming.
Overall, Sremm Life is highly positive. I found myself listening to “Safe Sex Pay Checks” “No Type,” or “Up Like Trump” any time I was feeling down this week. Some may call this album a guilty pleasure, but what’s so bad (or guilty) about experiencing something positive from the mouths of two guys who have seen hardship? The closer of the album, “Safe Sex Pay Checks,” embodies what Sremm Life is all about. Outside of the hook about staying payed and staying laid (safely), the song is about celebrating success with your friends. It’s about making sure that you’re not forgetting the people who were there before and after you became famous. Despite the somewhat tired hip hop trope of “not forgetting the neighborhood,” this song is enjoyable in its extreme indulgence. Sremm Life isn’t going to be the most original thing that comes out this year. It’s not going to be the most lyrically evocative and it definitely isn’t going to change the face of hip hop. What Sremm Life will do is preoccupy an enjoyable 45 minutes of your time, allowing you to experience some positive songs by some positive guys who just want to brighten your day with their music.