The very first sound you hear on SremmLife 2, the second studio LP by Mississippi rap siblings Rae Sremmurd, is an abrasive industrial drone, one reminiscent of a bone-sawing dental drill or a log caught in a jet turbine. When that searing tone finally reaches a fever pitch and caves in, what’s left behind is an oozing, beating carcass, further beaten in by Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown and his older brother Aaquil “Slim Jxmmi”’s agitated onslaught. In the age of tropical house, “Start A Party” is definitively not how you start a party. The beat is one of Mike WiLL Made-It’s most hostile concoctions yet— blearing and burbling and impenetrably thick, but continuously punctured by the brothers’ blunt-force raps.
It’s also not even close to the weirdest beat on the album, which offers a sequel to last year’s brilliantly boorish SremmLife. With their debut, Swae and Jxmmi introduced themselves by transcending the trap-pop framework through sheer personality, sneering and sauntering with reckless abandon and swinging their bravado like wrecking balls across Mike-Will’s cinematic landscape of phasing keyboards and trembling snare. SremmLife’s instantly iconic irreverence made it inescapable — yielding five platinum singles by year’s end. But rather than use their new stratospheric platform to shoot for even greater commercial heights on SremmLife 2, the two young rappers burrow deep into weirder mid-tempo banger-ballad hybrids.
Take “Came A Long Way,” an origin story of sorts that twists a delicately hazy piano lead into trickling, molasses-rich trap. Those same pulsating bass vibrations and whirring sirens of “Start A Party” are present, but instead put in service of mood lighting for an overcast nostalgia trip. Meanwhile, on the ominously lurking “By Chance,” the duo exist on the fringes of the after party, keeping their peers at arm’s length while still indulging in the same vices. Jxmmi’s aggressive braggadocio operates like a defibrillator, capable of delivering thousands of volts in the span of mere words. That shotgun delivery style complements Swae’s precise earworms well, a pairing that now has to its credit some of the most meticulously thrilling singles of the past few years (i.e. “Lit Like Bic,” “Look Alive”).
Rae Sremmurd’s most lasting contribution to the pantheon of great pop songs is “Black Beatles,” which is the perfect representation of the power of Swae’s murky croon and Beyonce-approved melodic sensibilities. The duo glide atop a cyclically asymmetrical keyboard riff, delivering a constant stream of bite-sized quotables that compile into a fully-formed statement of intent. Even forefather Gucci Mane makes a pit stop to sign off on his greatest prodigies yet.
Virtuosos in vibrant sloganeering, Rae Sremmurd affirm a DIY approach to self-confidence, one that gets louder in the face of opposition. There’s always going to be someone trying to stunt your shine, no matter what you do to adapt to their standards. “I had haters when I was broke, I’m rich, I still got haters,” Slim Jxmmi bellows thunderously — a matter of fact delivered with so much conviction, it resonates as a motto. Rae Sremmurd are a delirious reminder that you’ll always offend someone, so you might as well prioritize not offending yourself. The duo play The Warfield Theater on November 10, and you can guarantee they’ll start the most raucous, reverent party you go to this year.
Rae Sremmurd, Lil Yachty
November 10, 2016
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