Rae Sremmurd, SR3MM
Not to be corny, but I still think the best song of the project is “Powerglide.” It has everything I want from a Rae Sremmurd song: a breakneck beat courtesy of Mike WiLL Made-It, insane melodies from Swae Lee, an excellent verse from Jxmmi that makes sure I stick around for the end of the song, and an irresistible guest verse from Juicy J to sweeten the whole damn thing. I’m not sure there’s a line that’s more fun to sing in 2018 than, “Slime green paint, peanut butter inside.” For me, it’s the highlight of the three albums, especially their shared mini-album SR3MM, which mostly feels like throat clearing before getting to what they want to say, even though that intention might still be a little fuzzy.
Listening to all three projects, it’s clear that touring with The Weeknd in 2017 had a pretty intense impact on their music. I can’t help but hear his lonely moan on Swae’s very Abel-titled “Heartbreak In Encino Hills,” and his anxieties on Jxmmi’s “Growed Up.” And he’s actually there in the flesh on the duo’s song “Bedtime Stories,” one of the better cuts on SR3MM. Swae sings solemnly throughout the song and on the bridge, Jxmmi sings to his lover, “Fallin' in love is my worst nightmare.” It’s a little unnerving to have The Weeknd’s world of melodrama and endless cocaine creep into the Sremm universe, which was aptly described in our cover story, as “a distinct world in which the sex is safe, the couplings are not bound by race, the paychecks come in on time, and the parties allow everyone the freedom to do what they want.” By going solo and embracing darker shades across the board, SR3MM has a lot more freedom, but I just can’t help but miss the sunnier days. — Myles
Slim Jxmmi, Jxmtro
On Jxmtro, the third and final section of the triple album, Slim Jxmmi benefits from his underdog status in the duo. If we’re going along with the pretty trite Speakerboxxx/The Love Below comparison, where Big Boi balanced out André 3000’s avant garde experimentation with his best slick-tongued rapping, then Jxmmi overwhelmingly succeeds in this role. As a foil to Swae Lee’s nine-song collection of forlorn pop songs, Jxmtro finds Jxmmi delivering moments of introspection in between a steady stream of bangers sure to blow out your speakers.
The project’s leadoff track, “Brxnks Truck,” a quintessentially Mike WiLL wall of bass and percussion, sets the tone early. Over the course of the nine tracks, Jxmmi raps voraciously over the sparse, deafening production. But some of the project’s finest moments come when he slows down the pace. On “Changed Up,” he delivers a dejected hook over bluesy production and “Keep God First” finds him outlining his priorities on top of twinkling keys.
Overall, aside from a regrettable Zoe Kravitz feature, the album benefits from its straightforward, unassuming goal: make slaps. Where Big Boi looked to proto-rap influences like Parliament-Funkadelic on Speakerboxxx, Jxmmi brings SR3MM back to rap’s current Southern center on Jxmtro. — Ben
Swae Lee, Swaecation
I think fans, including myself, were expecting a lot from Swae Lee on his first solo project. I wanted to hear some of the magical singing-ass Swae I heard on Ransom 2 cut “Come Down,” or even more recently Ty Dolla $ign’s “Don’t Judge Me” — something brand new, that would make my heart bust out of my chest. What we got instead were a handful of stuck-in-your-head-hook type songs that tap into a lower-key, moodier Swae Lee, as heard on “Heartbreak In Encino Hills” and “Touchscreen Navigation,” which I’m not mad at. Swaecation is made up of nine songs that are fun, easy listens, songs we’re undoubtedly going to hear all summer, but aren’t necessarily groundbreaking or mind blowing. Ultimately, Swaecation is chill!
That said, there are some very good standouts that deserve more attention. The Chopsquad DJ-produced “Heat Of The Moment” is an undisputed hit, and “Off Shore,” with a splash of Beautiful Thugger Girl-filtered Young Thug, is a spaced-out beauty I want to play as I’m sailing into a pretty sunset with my crush of life. There are also moments on the album that are a little too reminiscent of Swae’s chart-conquering “Unforgettable,” like “Guatemala,” which makes you think, as my pal and colleague Rawiya Kameir pointed out on an early listen, just how influential Ramriddlz and producer Jaegen truly are. Still, Swaecation delivers the triple album's highest points even though it might leave a little to be desired. — Nazuk