Album Review: Rae Sremmurd – “SremmLife 2”

SL

Being young in the rap game is a real double-edged sword, especially nowadays. Thanks to the open access to rap music on the internet, young rappers have a free range to be whoever they want to be and can find an audience no matter what. Whether you’re Chance The Rapper, Desiigner, Lil Dicky, Migos, Young Thug, or Logic, you’ll have an audience somewhere.

The same applies to Rae Sremmurd, the Tupelo, Mississippi duo who’ve been spitting bars about partying like southern rap kingpins before they were the legal drinking age. Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi’s audience seems to be impressionable youths looking to live like rap stars even if they don’t have a cent to their name, as made clear on their 2015 début studio album SremmLife.

While songs like “No Flex Zone,” “No Type,” and “Throw Some Mo,” don’t require deep lyrical analysis or have a particularly innovative flow, Rae Sremmurd make an impression with their boundless energy and aggressive charisma. So what if they can’t legally rent a car? They’ve got girls to drive them home after stealing them from other guys. Rae Sremmurd occasionally border on a novelty act, which is hard considering all the other young novelty acts in rap today. But under the tutelage of producer Mike WiLL Made-It, you will hear Rae Sremmurd one way or another.

SremmLife 2 is put up or shut up time for the boys, and they seem to be well aware of it too. Again executive produced by Mike WiLL (who also produces seven tracks on the 11 track record) and featuring the likes of DJ Mustard, Lil Jon, Juicy J, and Gucci Mane, Rae Sremmurd are louder and more in your face than when they first walked in.

The disruptive opening of album-starter “Start a Party” is almost as jarring as Kanye West’s “On Sight” from Yeezus. The entire album sounds meaner, almost like the boys are daring haters to try them. It’s the musical equivalent of two guys yelling at each to “SWING FIRST!” on WorldStar. “Real Chill” and “Look Alive” features Mike WiLL’s haunting synth beats and a stuttering cymbal back beat.

Prime turn-up material can be found on tracks five to seven: “Black Beatles” with Gucci Mane has a slightly sped-up trap beat that Rae and Gucci ride with ease. “Shake It Fast” has a faster beat to get the crowd bouncing. It climaxes with “Set the Roof” thanks to DJ Mustard’s low organ beats and Rae shout-rapping like they’re playing for the back row, plus Lil Jon shouting the chorus doesn’t hurt.

The boys bring the party back down with the final four tracks, which are mostly pseudo-bedroom anthems like “Take It or Leave It,” “Now That I Know,” and “Do Yoga.” The beats are slowed down, hazier, and more luscious, with Swae Lee singing through Auto Tune and sounding closer to Justin Bieber or Jeremih. It might have been too much to ask to keep the party going for the full album, but turning the lights down to close everything out is actually a smart move on the boys’ part.

As mentioned earlier, lyrical density is not Rae Sremmurd’s strong suit. SremmLife 2 is no exception with more raps about swimming in money (“She said, ‘Let me guess, you a drug dealer’/Said, ‘Nah, I just brought a lot of money/And a whole lot of drugs with me’”), sex innuendo (“Hands up if you want the lumber/Hands up if your head the dumbest/Promise I’ma keep you cummin’”) and easy word play (“I’m a f***in black Beatle, cream seats in the Regal/Rockin John Lennon lenses like to see ‘em spread eagle”).

Swae and Slim excel when they take their ridiculous lyrics and shout them like it’s Gospel, like on “Set the Roof,” where they shout like their singing along to their favorite rappers, which just so happen to be themselves.

Aside from the surface-level lyrics, the only real off-putting moment is when the boys try to get serious. “Came a Long Way” chronicles Rae’s rise to success from poverty, or at least it tries to when the boys aren’t too swept up in their own success (“I don’t do drugs, naw, I don’t do drugs/I’m the motherf***in’ drugs, do me”). Things actually get a bit interesting when they turn the lights down for slow jams like “Now That I Know,” which has the guys contemplating why they chose to hang out with loose girls (“Maybe it’s me listenin’ to the radio/Kickin’ it with this good dope/That I chose to roll with these bad hoes”). “

Do Yoga” may be the funniest track, with the boys thinking doing yoga, smoking weed, and sex go hand in hand while coming off sounding like players. It’s nice to hear a smooth yet goofy way to play out the obnoxious party that preceded it.

SremmLife 2 is undoubtedly a Rae Sremmurd album and had all the good and bad that listeners know about the duo: it’s dumb, goofy, in your face, but occasionally fun. While there aren’t as many earworms as there were on the last album, it does show that the boys aren’t flashes in the pan. Their energy and charisma is hard to copy and Mike WiLL’s overlook allows for some good beat work here. It still may be too early to ask for maturity from these two, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask for some better wordplay next time around. Being young in the rap game is a precious thing and you could only be the immature goofballs for so long until people start asking what else is new in the life of the reverse Ear Drummers.

7/10

Jon Winkler is a 22-year-old movie/music nerd in Southampton, NY by way of Merrimack, NH. He loves watching, listening to, dissecting, mocking and talking about movies, television, music, video games and comics. He enjoys a good cheeseburger, believes CDs and vinyl are superior, likes to make people smile if they're having a rough day, and is rumored to be Batman (unconfirmed).