Rap albums are getting longer and longer, but Rae Sremmurd’s third full-length, the 3xLP SR3MM proves that you can pack a massive project with personality and inventiveness instead of releasing a slog to game the streaming system.
When Outkast’s double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below came out in 2003, many thought it foreshadowed the legendary duo’s imminent breakup. What does it mean when two rappers who have been making music together since their teens begin craving the independance to explore their own sound? Rae Sremmurd, with the help of executive producer Mike Will Make It, have supplied an elegant answer with SR3MM, the third full-length from the Tupelo, Mississippi duo.
A colossal project that somehow manages to feel finely-tuned and airtight, the release consists of a traditional Rae Sremmurd album, plus two “side chapters”: Swaecation from Swae Lee and Jxmtro from Slim Jxmmi. Each segment is a finely edited nine tracks long; at 27 tracks total, the 3xLP is actually not much longer than your average late model major label hip-hop album.
Along with a team of producers like Metro Boomin, TM88 and the group’s longtime DJ D-Jay Sremm, a host of all-stars assist the brothers on the triple disc. The Weeknd’s falsetto gilds ‘Bedtime Stories;’ Juicy J shows up to eulogize a fallen peer (“R.I.P. Lil Peep, I gotta slow down on them Xans”) on ‘Powerglide.’ There are cameos from Future, Travis Scott, Young Thug, Pharrell and Zoë Kravitz who shines with an unexpectedly bratty verse on Slim Jxmmi’s ‘Anti-Social Smokers Club.’
On Swaecation, Swae Lee stays close to the model he set when he stole the show on French Montana’s ‘Unforgettable’. Due mostly to Swae’s intoxicating hook, the song peaked at no. 3 during a 21-week run on the Billboard Hot 100.
He’s taken a step away from rapping (perhaps wisely; who remembers his awkward rhyming on Mike Will’s Ransom 2 track ‘Bars of Soap’?) to focus on the dreamy, romantic vocals he excels at. Swaecation seems destined to become the most popular third of the collection; it’s a stand-alone summer album, perfect for playing pool side, languid and drowsy enough to facilitate naps in the sun.
Even before the Sremmlets differentiated themselves by putting out solo projects, the younger Swae Lee was the more popular member; he has well over three million social media followers, over twice as many as Slim Jxmmi. Fans have long clamored for a solo album, much like they have with Quavo of Migos; perhaps SR3MM was devised as a way to satisfy those demands without leaving Rae Sremmurd behind.
On Jxmtro, however, Uncle Jxm displays more range and versatility. The older and more adventurous brother has a wicked wild streak, but ‘Changed Up’ finds him uncharacteristically reflective, questioning allegations that fame has changed him from people who never really knew him in the first place.
From their early days as Dem Outta St8 Boyz when they eschewed swearing to appeal to a broader audience, to the Mannequin-Challenge-fueled viral popularity of ‘Black Beatles’, Rae Sremmurd has never been afraid to embrace savvy tactics to increase their commercial potential.
Swae Lee’s already announced the #TouchscreenChallenge: an open second verse on the song ‘Touchscreen Navigation’ that listeners are invited to freestyle over, posting their impromptu remixes to social media. With marketing baked into the DNA of their songs, it’s no surprise that some view the ambitious length of SR3MM as an attempt to game the system.
Streaming data’s influence on charting numbers has resulted in epic albums from some of rap’s biggest names. The more songs on an album there are to stream, the more streams the album gets, which translates into success on the Billboard Hot 100. Drake’s last two projects, Views and More Life, have tipped the scales at over twenty tracks each. Culture II, the double album from Migos, has a longer runtime than SR3MM.
It’s not just album length that’s been affected; it’s the pacing of singles. When Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy went Gold on release day, observers were quick to point out that it was due to the inclusion of five-time multi-platinum hit single ‘Bodak Yellow,’ which had moved five million units in the ten months it had been out.
Rae Sremmurd’s ‘Perplexing Pegasus’ was released all the way back in August of last year. By the time SR3MM was released, a whopping eight singles were already out.
It’s hard to believe these choices are accidental, and the hip-hop purists among us might lament the way our changing cultural landscape has influenced the trajectory of artist’s creativity. It’s true that some artists, when given endless room to expand, churn out endless variations on existing hit songs, swinging for a crossover hit.
Others, however, surprise us by using their newfound freedom to wander from the beaten path, forging new insights in sound. Rae Sremmurd wanted to show us new dimensions and levels to the personalities we know and love; due to a blessed knack for brevity and their irrepressible energy, they’ve succeeded. The bright moments of chemistry when their unique talents interplay show us why it’s so important they do it without breaking up the band.
Lorena Cupcake writes about every facet of culture. Find their insightful coverage on music, food and more at lorenacupcake.com.