"Hurt To Look," "Brxnks Truck," and "Powerglide" pull in different directions, but hold clues to the respective sides of the upcoming triple-disc album.
Rae Sremmurd are about to do something never before attempted in rap. The duo's upcoming album, SremmLife 3, will be a triple album comprised of two solo albums and one group effort. Swae Lee will release a side called Swaecation, while his brother, Slim Jxmmi, will make his mark with Jxmtroduction. The proper Rae Sremmurd album will be titled SR3MM. Last week, three singles -- one for each respective side -- were released. While there's only so much you can guess from 3 songs out of what will likely be over 30, we've decided to take a look at each single and see what it says about the new material. According to Swae, the album is "gonna be like a good tv series every song is like a different episode." These three tracks definitely feel like pilots for three different series, so we did our best to see what the rest of Sremm season has in store. Read our expectations below.
"Hurt To Look"
What it tells us:
Swaecation will live up to its title
The title of Swae Lee’s solo album is something we’ve known for some time, and judging by “Hurt To Look,” the name could not be more fitting. The song literally begins with ocean sounds, and by the time the restrained synth sounds wash behind Swae’s effortless vocal performance, it feels a lot like holding a shell to your ear. SR3MM does not yet have a release date, but we wouldn’t be surprised if a song of the summer contender arises from Swae’s third of the project.
Swae is spreading his wings as a singer
While he’s always been known for his hooks, Swae has greatly evolved as a singer since the “No Flex Zone” days. With that being said, save for his features on R&B tracks, there’s generally some rapping on pretty much every song he’s appeared on, often from either himself or his brother Jxmmi. On “Hurt To Look,” he has full license to embrace his growing melodic tendencies. If this were the first time we were hearing him, there’d be no reason to assume he was a rapper at all. That’s a very good sign.
Expect more songs about women
“Hurt To Look” feels like a logical progression from French Montana’s “Unforgettable,” a song that in many ways was Swae Lee’s debut solo single, seeing that he had a considerably larger presence than the leading artist. What the songs share in common, outside of nodding to Afrobeats and Caribbean music, are themes of complicated romances. Women have always played a role in Swae’s songwriting (just look at “No Type,”), but it seems he’s now looking his subjects in the eyes, hinting that his new songs will reveal a new intimacy.
What it tells us:
Jxmtroduction will be packed with bars
With Swae seemingly moving away from rap on his solo material, “Brxnks Truck” finds Slim Jxmmi doubling down on his abilities as an emcee. Always the more studied and technical rapper of the brothers, Jxmmi proves that he can be immensely quotable, multi-syllabic, funny, and real as hell, sometimes in the same bar. “Keep a few racks on me, I used to work in the factory,” he raps, referencing days spent grinding at a day job while trying to get his rap career off the ground. “I'm friends with the jeweler, my diamonds like Shamu / She rubbin' the head like she applyin' shampoo.” You can hear the line was rapped with a wide grin, and that energy brings the whole track up a notch.
Xpect many more Xs
“Brxnks Truck” continues Jxmmi’s tendency to replace letters with Xs, and it’s likely something we’ll see across the tracklist on Jxmtroduction. It’s a simple but effective touch that will help Jxm establish his personality outside of Rae Sremmurd.
Jxmmi is leveling up
“I leveled up on these n---as, Yeah, I leveled up,” Jxmmi raps towards the close of “Brxnks Truck,” and it feels like an important mission statement for his third of SremmLife 3. Through a few big features, Swae Lee has been given the platform to make his name as a solo act, while Jxmmi has not been afforded the same moment. It’s clear from the new single that Jxmtroduction will be the place where Jxmmi can finally put himself front and center and showcase his own creative development. Let’s not forget that Jxmmi is responsible for hooks like “Unlock The Swag,” “Start A Party,” and “Came A Long Way.” If he can level up from there, Jxmtroduction should be a strong showing that will have fans arguing over favorite members.
What it tells us:
Rae Sremmurd is forever
Immediately, “Powerglide” is a reminder that as much as it’s refreshing to hear Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi letting their own personalities breathe, they should never be apart for too long. The strongest of the three tracks, the record is exactly the kind of party-starting anthem Rae Sremmurd made their name off of back in 2014, yet it still feels altogether new. You need both Swae’s delicate falsetto and Jxm’s shouty punchlines to really complete the “SremmLife” package, and there’s clearly so much further for that sound to go.
Mike WiLL has another big year ahead of him
Judging by the lead singles, it seems as though Swae and Jxmmi’s solo outings may find the rappers outsourcing their production more than usual, but “Powerglide” suggests that Mike WiLL is at the center of the proper Sremm third of SremmLife 3. After working on hits from Kendrick Lamar, Yo Gotti, and his own Ransom 2 collection, 2017 is a tough year to beat, but as we’ve seen in the past, Rae Sremmurd is an act where Mike can really get in his zone, experiment, and collaborate with Swae Lee (a producer himself, don’t forget) and Jxmmi.
Rae Sremmurd will continue to explore Southern rap’s past and future
Three 6 Mafia’s classic repertoire has been cited more than ever in the recent past, and “Powerglide” is one of a few singles to reference a popular hit from the Memphis group (in this case “Side To Side”). Rae Sremmurd have previously experimented with the sounds of Southern rap’s past on songs like “Set The Roof,” which pulled from Atlanta snap music, and featured one of the genre's pioneers Lil Jon. Much like that track, “Powerglide” finds a fluid connection between Rae Sremmurd and the source material, and gives proper credit by incorporating a verse from Three 6’s Juicy J. It’s pulled into the future by Swae’s unique vocal approach, which uses the original song like a tool rather than a crutch. While critics have at times tried to pull down Rae Sremmurd’s music as disposable, they’ve continued to make an imprint with each of their releases thus far. So far, SremmLife 3 is sounding like another step forward. If they continue on this path, the treads of their sneakers should be visible for years to come.