This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Genre: Trap Rap, Pop Rap
Favorite Tracks: “Buckets (featuring Future),” “Powerglide (featuring Juicy J),” “Heartbreak in Encino Hills,” “Guatemala,” “Anti-Social Smokers Club (featuring Zoe Kravitz),” “Charged Up”
Given the expansive, sprawling, and generally diverse nature of Rae Sremmurd’s most recent triple LP, SR3MM, it seemed only fitting to have three writers covering it, including music editor CJ Simonson and contributors Michael Stanziale and Nick Funess. Below were their thoughts on the album as a whole, as well as thoughts on the project’s three parts, including the collaborative SR3MM, and the two solo portions, Swae Lee’s FROM SWAECATION, and Slim Jxmmi’s FROM JXMTRO.
CJ Simonson, Music Editor: Without even having pressed play, I have to imagine we were all fairly intimidated by the length of Rae Sremmurd’s latest. At an hour-and-41 minutes, it rings in just slightly shorter than Migos middling double LP from earlier this year, CULTURE II, but I think it’s fair to start by discussing whether the length of the duo’s latest was justified? CULTURE II (and other recent hip hop albums) seem to be chasing streaming numbers and Billboard charts with their long run times. But rather than just an unwieldy collection of 27 songs, there are artistic reasons behind Rae Sremmurd making it a triple LP, and it’s an album that attempts to (even blatantly) draw creative parallels to the 2004 Outkast double LP, SPEAKERBOXXX / THE LOVE BELOW. SR3MM is three albums, the first a true Rae Sremmurd album, and then two individual solo endeavors, Swae Lee’s reserved R&B collection FROM SWAECATION, and Slim Jxmmi’s bouncing, guest-filled extravaganza FROM JXMTRO. Did this project work for you as a whole or is it easier for you after spending some time with it to consider it as multiple parts that have their own merits?
Michael Stanziale, Contributor: I was a little taken back by the length, but if you are going to do something as baller as putting out a triple LP, than a long run time is to be expected. I feel like what makes this different from CULTURE II is that they have three finite sections with distinct purposes, whereas Migos just kind of threw everything together in one piece. Part of me feels like these long projects as a whole stem from artists who work in a genre where mixtapes are still standard and do not really take runtime into account. Clearly Migos have grown out of that phase and I don’t know that Rae Sreummurd had one, but it’s possibly just part of being in the world of hip hop. I think it’s also a defining element of southern rap to have longer projects like this.
Nick Funess, Contributor: Yeah I’ve noticed that too, ever since the heyday of Three 6 Mafia, loading up the track list has been a staple. It’s commendable if the group actually gives a shit and it’s clear that Rae Sremmurd do. Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear a duo at the peak of their powers continue to push their artistic threshold. Whereas Migos got comfortable and decided to phone-in what could’ve been a great sequel. SR3MM actually had care and love put into it, and it shows. I love the fact that they just decided to double (triple?) down on the ridiculousness and do a triple album. It’s like, “OK, we will probably get a lot of OutKast comparisons, so let’s just get even crazier with it.” I haven’t listened to SPEAKERBOXXX / THE LOVE BELOW in a while, but I remember it feeling less cohesive than this album here. Rae Sremmurd are versatile and it helps that they both have great voices and are backed with top notch production. It’s easily some of Mike WiLL Made-It’s best work and I can imagine how exciting this must be for him. Like watching his two underlings sprout from single artists to legitimate forces to be reckoned with. “Buckets” really shows their chemistry, everyone delivers on it. It’s a no-holds-barred, menacing-as-fuck banger.
CS: I’ll second Nick’s point about how much the solo material really elevated not just SR3MM, but really their past material in general, although it’s for that reason I give the slightest edge in all of this to SWAECATION. Swae Lee found a way to lay down a really sweet collection of laid-back pop R&B jams that totally work on their own merits in a time when there are a LOT of great laid-back pop R&B albums being made. Even though I find all three albums to be interesting in their own way, much like with SPEAKERBOXXXX / THE LOVE BELOW, I can’t help but wonder if you take the best parts of both and combine them that you don’t have a tighter, stronger album. For me, even though Mike WiLL Made-It’s production on JXMTRO provides some of the project’s best beats, it’s also a very contemporary sound that, at times, bridges on filler. You could make a nice 18-20 song album that would be amazing, but perhaps less interesting.
MS: I am also partial to SWAECATION. There is something about the use of dancehall samples in today’s rap music that plays to the zeitgeist really well. I am not sure if it’s because these types of beats are a somewhat new sound or simply due to the fact that Caribbean-influenced music is just transportive to the listener. Either way, Swae Lee seems to understand that as part of his narrative in rap. A song like “Guatemala,” albeit almost a duplicate of French Montana’s “Unforgettable,” captures the modern day young adults take on romance with fiery drums and calmed vocals. I do think Slim Jxmmi’s solo LP was fascinating just because he is undeniably the introvert of the duo and has not had the same kind of visibility that his brother has.
NF: I think both the solo albums work. Both have a few good tracks, and some of them are even great (“Heartbreak in Encino Hills,” “Anti Social Smokers Club”), but I found JXMTRO to be the stronger of the two sections. I think I just get less tired of rapping than the slow jams of SWAECATION. “Changed Up” points to how great Slim Jxmmi is when given enough room to shine. However, I found that the two latter sections manage to highlight their effectiveness as a pair more than anything. Rae Sremm is a package, and to separate their abilities from each other just feels wrong . . . they’re really the yin to each other’s yang, Swae’s sweet vocals to Jxmmis salty drawl.
MS: Honestly, it is amazing how they are able to put out this kind of music together and be related. But both of their solo efforts kind of remind us that they are still young and foolish. Sure, there is artistic merit to putting out a project like this, but much of the content is focused on partying and hooking up. On JXMTRO’s “Players Club” he repeats, “I’ma go fuck wit the strippers tonight” as the chorus. These guys are so young, they’re just having a blast doing all this.
CS: While a lot of rap’s “event” albums over the last year seem to have fallen flat, to Mike’s point, I do think that the Rae Sremmurd’s exuberance and youth is the thing that makes SR3MM a cut above the rest. Sure, it’s flawed, and those flaws are kind of obvious from the jump, but the fact that they do seem to be not only having fun, but are also really exploring a range of sounds both in and out of the current hip hop zeitgeist is fascinating and genuinely exciting. Since SREMMLIFE, these two have found a way to really take a lot of different elements, whether it be from the decadence of the early 2010s to the SoundCloud and mumble rap scenes, and counterbalance production to make albums that are somehow subservient to the current cultural moment while seeming independent enough to feel lasting. While I’m not sure this third album is their best, it gives me more confidence in the potential for their trailblazing future than other rappers right now, and that they did it with an album that seems like they really are having a lot of fun is amazing.
NF: It’ll be great to see where these guys go. Like CJ said, it may not be their best album, but it’s a feat for sure, and suggests a confidence that’s sure to be pulling the rug from us again. We’ve been graced with a sibling duo that are more than happy to give each other room to do their own flexing, and rivalry is nowhere in sight. Here was a moment of mutual respect for individual growth, a harnessing of powers before they reunite to deliver again as partners in crime.