Despite being arguably the most innovative and experimental genre of music at the moment, the hip-hop community can be strangely conservative, and resistant to acts that work outside what is perceived as acceptable. With a debut full of energetic, exuberantly shallow hits like No Flex Zone, Rae Sremmurd drew a lot of ire from hip-hop commentators. They were criticised for their lack of depth, their pop-rap sound, and their atypical, occasionally clumsy rapping styles. However, what those critics conveniently ignored was that at a base level, SremmLife was just a ridiculously fun album. It had a distinct energy which propelled it to huge success, and SremmLife 2 finds that same energy, whilst exploring some new and interesting territory.
Whilst SremmLife was an album of bangers, the duo’s new record takes a slightly different approach. Many tracks would fit right at home soundtracking a party, like Shake it Fast and Set the Roof, but the most interesting tracks on the album are slower, more appropriate for the bus ride home, or the morning after. Black Beatles in particular, is phenomenal. Swae Lee’s falsetto hook is sweet, and oddly beautiful, even as he’s singing about being a “young bull living like an old geezer”. Mike Will Made-It’s mellow beat mixes trap drums with rolling synths straight out of a Chromatics song. All three of the track’s verses, from Swae Lee, Slim Jxmmi and guest Gucci Mane are solid, with Jxmmi delivering a particularly fiery performance. It doesn’t have the same commercial appeal as their biggest hits, and as such won’t be as popular, but it certainly deserves to be.
Outside of Mike Will Made-It’s diverse production, the thing that sticks out most about the record is Swae Lee. He handles the majority of the hooks on the album, and even though his singing is occasionally flat, the melodies he creates are remarkable. He’s developed a rapping style akin to a more sedate Young Thug, filled with yelps and squeals, but his singing is entirely his own. Slim Jxmmi doesn’t spend as much time on the mic as Lee does, but he still shows an impressive evolution as an artist, the Big Boi to Lee’s André 3000. He raps with passion and intensity, whilst maintaining a solid, grounded style, and the two compliment each other perfectly.
SremmLife 2 feels like an excellent follow up to Rae Sremmurd’s debut. It expands their soundscape and subject matter, exploring more relaxed moods, and more romantic songs, showing an impressive level of depth and range. The duo and Mike Will Made-It are a match made in heaven, with his minimal beats finding space for both rappers’ outlandish personalities. They’re still not exactly creating fine art, but SremmLife 2 is an excellent, and most importantly, fun album.