For over a year, Atlanta-based duo Rae Sremmurd have dealt with baseless speculation about a fracture in their relationship based on crooner Swae Lee’s ascension into music stardom via collaborations with Beyonce and French Montana on the ubiquitous “Unforgettable.” Many hip-hop devotees assumed Swae’s rise would eventually lead to a solo career that left his brother Slim Jxmmi to fend for himself as a recording artist.
We saw the same speculation with Quavo of Migos, whose features had outshone Offset and Takeoff throughout 2017. The thing is, like Migos, Rae Sremmurd are real family, not industry “brothers” or homies. They’ve got that connection that’s kept the Lox together and keeps Dipset coming back together even though they fall out every two years. Rae Sremmurd peeped the solo record talk and did what brothers do: They placated their fans with solo albums — but packaged them along with their latest group album, resulting in the triple-album extravaganza known as SR3MM. “We going three-sided. [OutKast] didn’t come together. We got to come together — we’re brothers,” Swae told Billboard a couple of months ago.
Indeed, for all of The Love Below/Speakerboxxx‘s critical acclaim, it couldn’t be more clear that they were two separate albums that were likely recorded in disparate environments. The double album, attached by name only, felt like a compromise to capitalize on their superstardom one last time before they parted ways. That’s not the case with SR3MM. It’s fitting that the group has been involved in NBA promotion this spring because the album shows they can be one of the best pick-and-rolls in rap — and it should probably stay that way.
Swae’s delicate melodies are perhaps Rae Sremmurd’s most popular quality. They can be arresting, such as on “Close,” where he harmonizes about a relationship over a balmy Travis Scott production. The Weeknd-assisted “Bedtime Stories” is the likely Billboard hit of SR3MM, but “Close” is the record that most exemplifies Rae Sremmurd at their best. Swae explores a range of vocal tones while crooning about some of the group’s favorite topics: Girls and drugs. His melodies are offset by a rapid-fire verse from Slim Jxmmi, who shows his double-time MC skills and makes it known from the door that he’s not just along for the ride with Rae Sremmurd. He drops a little shade at those who think he is, nothing, “haters still watch from the sideline.” If that yin-yang persisted on similar soundscapes throughout SR3MM, it’d be a stronger offering.
Instead, SR3MM‘s short tracklist works against it. Projects with nine tracks have a small margin for error. While Rae Sremmurd doesn’t falter with any outright clunkers, there are one too many songs that don’t shine. Their collaborations — Future on “Buckets” and “Powerglide” with Juicy J — are bangers, and not just because of the impressive guest features. But songs like “T’d Up,” the previously-released “Perplexing Pegasus,” and “42” leave a bit to be desired. The keys on “Perplexing Pegasus” and synths on “T’d Up” don’t radiate the luminosity of a “Bad N Boujee,” a gold standard for trap production, and instead sound drearily mixed with its thumping 808s. Their vocal performances hold up for the most part, but the tracks feel like the kind that exemplify the going-through-the-motions fatigue that comes from over-reliance on the trap format. These middle-of-the-road offerings occupying such a heavy portion of the tracklist is a bad look.