"SR3MM" is a worthwhile experiment but it proves that Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi are better as a duo, and need Mike Will production to truly be at their best.
The post-Views world has brought us album after album of way too many songs, from Culture II to More Life to Heartbreak on a Full Moon. This sucks and needs to change soon, but if it's par for the course right now, why not actually have some fun with albums' structure and sequencing, rather than just unceremoniously dump out a bunch of new tracks? That seems to be the goal of SR3MM, the third album by Mississippi duo Rae Sremmurd, which also houses the debut solo albums by each of its members.
Even before this streaming stuff got out of hand, I was asking for a Speakerboxxx/The Love Below-style split album from Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, because their somewhat contrasting talents made it seem like they could carry that sort of thing. This situation played right into their hands. Swae gets his pop album, Jxm gets his harder, rap-heavy side, and we all get another Sremmurd disc to boot. And although the resulting triple-disc project is long, I have to give Swae, Jxm, and Mike Will credit for still keeping it shorter than Culture II.
Following early singles "Perplexing Pegasus" and "T'd Up," SR3MM got off to a proper rollout this spring with the simultaneous release of three songs, one from each disc. Upon listening to "Powerglide," "Hurt To Look," and "Brxnks Truck," my first impression was that "Powerglide" was both a better pop song than "Hurt To Look" and featured better rapping than "Brnxks Truck"— it starts with three consecutive minutes of Swae singing the hook and rapping a verse, and in its second half, you get a Juicy J verse as a bonus. Remember, this is the group that took a rockstar-lifestyle track featuring a 36-year-old Gucci Mane to #1. How is it possible to get poppier or rawer than that?
True to that first impression, disc one (SR3MM) is by far the best of the three. It's just as good as the two excellent preceding chapters in the SremmLife saga, and features improved rapping/singing from both members. Mike Will, who has a hand in all but three of its beats, holds it down (as if we expected him to do anything else). Once again, Rae Sremmurd prove they are the best, most fun pop-rappers in the game.
Things start to sag once Swaecation gets underway. There's no denying Swae's talent as a vocalist and hooksmith, but left completely on his own, he sometimes seems a shadow of his own self. His disc is flat in places— there's too little melodic differentiation between verses and choruses, the songs drag on a bit long, and oftentimes Swae just mimics the melody of the instrumental backing him. It almost feels like a disc of demos he'd turn in to a pop star looking for guest writers, but the irony is that Swae seems like he could use the guiding hand of a more experienced pop writer. Part of the problem is that Mike Will's almost nowhere to be found (he co-produced one song on Swaecation, and that's it), which is weird because considering how he's produced hits for Rihanna, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Ciara, and other pop stars, you'd assume that Swae would want his expertise. Instead, Swae leans heavily on relatively untested producers like Bizness Boi, who has a hand in almost half of the disc's tracks, and gives Swaecation a tropical, pleasant enough sound, but it's rather plodding at times. By the time Young Thug's done with his three minute verse on highlight "Offshore," he's effectively Renegade'd the whole disc by showing Swae how easy it is for him to pick hook after hook out of thin air.
As Swaecation was the more buzzed-about of the two solo discs, and Swae had more solo guest features under his belt, Jxmtro comes as a bit more of a surprise. We didn't really know what to expect from Jxm, but now it's clear that his comfort zone is bass-heavy strip club joints. It's a bit more invigorating than Swaecation, but it's also less of a risk. Though Jxm's rapping is solid, markedly improved from his SremmLife days, he also seems to suffer without the presence of his co-conspirator, his songs often lacking the melodic unpredictability and bouncy youthfulness that Swae brings.
All in all, SR3MM is a very worthwhile experiment. As the solo discs are tacked on to a proper third Sremmurd album, it's a low-risk way to start Swae and Jxm's solo careers. Although Swaecation and Jxmtro both leave a bit to be desired in the way of catchiness and concision (though both sides are short I genuinely believe that every song on them would be better if they were 30 seconds shorter), they also both contain signs that both halves of Rae Sremmurd might be able to eventually have solo success if they continue to hone their crafts. The main beauty of this triple album is that neither of the latter two discs detract from SR3MM, which continues the duo's undefeated track record of perfectly-manicured pop-rap albums.
If SR3MM, Swaecation, and Jxmtro teach us anything about Rae Sremmurd, it's that they're at their best when whipping us into pulse-quickening frenzies and staying vibrant with the ear candy and vocal deliveries, rather than going for more bare-bones, typical rap or pop shit. It also shows how crucial Mike Will is to their success. I'd rank the three albums thusly: SR3MM's far better than either solo disc; I give it an 86. Jxmtro's a little better than Swaecation; I'd give those 77 and 74, respectively. Average those and you get my overall score.