Last spring in Austin, Texas, during SXSW’s last-hurrah Saturday, producer Mike Will Made-It was billed to end the showcase at The North Door. A surprise guest was expected, but it was the earlier appearance of his new protégés that stole the show. Performing “We” from the Mike Will Been Trill mixtape, Rae Sremmurd stormed the stage (with an enormous entourage to boot) and were on constant overdrive during the rest of Mike Will’s DJ set until he asked them to clear the stage to bring out the expected marquee guest, Future. When it was all over, it would be Rae Sremmurd that left the venue buzzing.
When “No Flex Zone” eventually made the rounds, I understood why they were so damn happy in Austin. The pair of young real-life brothers, Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, originally from Tupelo, Mississippi, were not only working with a proven hit-maker in Will, but they must have known that they already had one in the bag. In a quick phone conversation prior to this year’s SXSW, the duo accounted for their early confidence, despite barely anyone knowing or giving a fuck about who they were. “It’s just the rock star in us,” says Swae Lee, who delivers the duo’s infectious, unmistakable, high-pitched hooks. As rowdy as they present themselves, there’s an ease and contentment evident. They describe this positive mindstate as SremmLife, the title of their debut album which was released this past January.
Their debut was originally slated to be an EP, an attempt at quickly capitalizing on the success of “No Flex Zone,” but as their second single, “No Type,” began to take off, and surprisingly surpassed the first, they decided to wait and put out a full length. “When ‘No Type’ dropped people were acting like we were aliens. They just didn’t expect it from us,” Swae Lee says, and because they had been recording so much it wasn’t a big ask to supersize the release to an LP. “We had tonnes of ingredients. It was just a matter of preparing the right meal.”
SremmLife is a tight assortment of bangers highlighting the personality and brashness of Rae Sremmurd, immediately quelling all murmurs of them being a two-hit wonder. In a time when contemporary rap is trending toward politically-charged themes, faux-beefs, and general dark intensity, this record about partying, positive energy—and it’s a breath of fresh air. They’ve quickly forged a lane all to themselves and they’re poised to enjoy the ride.
Before heading out with Nicki Minaj and company for the blockbuster PinkPrint Tour this summer, they will make their first trip to Toronto for NXNE in June—even if, Swae Lee says, in a sense, he’s definitely been here already. “I’ve been there in spirit. On Instagram and stuff. I see all these beautiful women and beautiful buildings. I can’t wait to come up there and party with y’all.”