Album Reviews

Rae Sremmurd – Sremm 4 Life

(Interscope) UK release date: 7 April 2023

After a lengthy hiatus in which the rap scene has changed dramatically, the dynamic duo are back with a record that stylistically hedges its bets

Rae Sremmurd - Sremm 4 Life Trite though it may be to say, a lot can change in five years. When Rae Sremmurd’s third album was released the duo were firmly lodged in rap’s mainstream with Swae Lee appearing on one of 2018’s biggest hits, Sunflower with Post Malone. Fast-forward to 2023 and Sremm 4 Life contains an intriguing mixture of the trippy trap beats that put them on the map and forays into new sounds, as the duo’s styles bounce off each other appealingly and a select few guests (Future, Young Thug) stop by.

Unlike the unforgivably bloated SR3MM the record is a nice neat length, and Origami (Hotties) kicks things off nicely with its wobbly chords and effortlessly hooky Swae bars, Slim Jxmmi taking up his natural position in the mid-section. Mike WiLL Made-It produced this track which is firmly within his wheelhouse, though other contributions are more leftfield – take the surreal scratches and monophonic piano line of Bend Ya Knees (“Benjamins, I’m bringing them in, what you need? / She blog about this dick, can’t fuck this hoe cause she’ll tweet”) co-produced with Pluss and Murda Beatz.

Not So Bad (Leans Gone Cold) is an enjoyably baffling concept, as the hook of Eminem’s Stan is interpolated over an oh-so-contemporary drill beat, and the Sremmurd boys do their best to flesh it out with bars about their come-up, while Mississippi Slide provides a useful spelling lesson with a flow reminiscent of Drake on 2020’s Toosie Slide. Two of the record’s most interesting moments come back-to-back, with Cheap’s uptempo beat and droning synth lead followed by the Miami bass stylings of Sexy, featuring Jxmmi’s most charismatic performance by far.

To acknowledge the elephant in the room, this is easily their most experimental album because their normal style is out of fashion, and as such it comes across as transitional in nature. One hopes that there are more tunes like ADHD Anthem (Too Many Emotions) in their future, as a suitably hyperactive melody clashes with bass hits that sound like they’re about to break any system they’re played on. The lyrics are a heady brew of resentment, defiance and introspection, and the result sounds like what emo rap could have been in a better timeline. What Sremm 4 Life lacks in cohesion it makes up for in energy, the most exciting Sremmurd record since their debut.

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