Rae Sremmurd: All About that Sremmlife (by Ronda Penrice)

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Far from a fluke, “No Flex Zone,” the debut single from Rae Sremmurd, signaled an exciting new addition to the music scene. The two brothers, known professionally as Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, repping Tupelo, Mississippi of all places, kept the hits coming. “No Type,” “Throw Some Mo,” “This Could Be Us” and “Come Get Her,” all platinum singles from their platinum 2015 debut album SremmLife. They, along with Future, even teamed up with Ty Dolla Sign for his single “Blasé,” which also went platinum.

The brothers, whose government names are Aaquil and Khalif Brown, may be among the latest sensations affiliated with the Mike Will Made-It arsenal, but they have had an incredible hand in shaping their own destiny. Born in Inglewood, California, the guys bounced around with their mother who was in the military. Early on the family lived in Mississippi before moving on to Maryland and Texas and then returning to Mississippi again where their music career launched in earnest. Initially, they were part of a trio known as Dem Outta St8 Boyz. Prior to adopting Swae Lee, Aaquil was known as CaliBoy and Khalif as Kid Krunk before settling into Slim Jxmmi. Taking a cue from Soulja Boy, who also has a Mississippi affiliation, the trio, who worked to buy equipment and record, began hitting social media channels to be heard… and they were.

They also worked at building a real-life buzz, throwing parties in the abandoned places they would live after their mother kicked them out. With a DJ, DJ JJ (Jermarcus Jackson), now known as Jay Sremm, they hit even harder. Independently, they released “Party Animal,” the single and mixtape, which became a local hit. When BET’s 106 & Park’s then popular Wild Out Wednesdays held auditions in nearby Memphis in 2010, they landed their first televised slot and even scored another appearance the following year.

Jermarcus’ cousin, Pierre “P-Nazty” Slaughter, who had grown up in Tupelo, worked with Mike Will Made-It in Atlanta. The group made their way to Atlanta as the Dem Outta St8 Boyz. While they performed in some talent shows and released the mixtape Three Stooges Mixtape in 2012, it just didn’t work out, forcing them back to Tupelo where they regrouped. Initially, the brothers started working for a local mattress company to make money. P-Nazty was finally able to lure them back to Atlanta where he linked them with Mike Will Made-It who was getting his own imprint. Taking Will’s EarDrummers moniker and spelling it backwards, the brothers, now a duo since other members dropped off, became Rae Sremmurd, the first group signed to Will’s EarDrummers Entertainment on Interscope.

Their sophomore effort SremmLife 2, released in June of last year, scored a big win with “Black Beatles,” becoming the duo’s first Billboard Hot 100 number-one and the first for Gucci Mane, who is featured on the track. As they blow up stages from South by Southwest in the U.S. to those in South Africa, where they filmed their video “This Could Be Us,” and France, the brothers show absolutely no signs of slowing down. Last year they started their own label SremmLife Crew Records, releasing the mixtape Trail Mix featuring their fellow Mississippi crew who rocked with them prior to the birth of the SremmLife movement.

They won the BET Award for Best Group in 2016 and, most recently, the Billboard Music Awards for Best Rap Collaboration for “Black Beatles” with Gucci Mane. They’ve also branched out with other artists. Swae Lee contributed to Beyoncé’s “Formation” for example. In addition to the announcement of SremmLife 3, the two brothers are working on solo projects and have been currently performing in front of sold out arenas while on the Starboy: Legends of the Fall Tour, with the Weeknd. Rae Sremmurd are also coming to the Staple Center for the BET Experience in late June, and kick off a string of European dates throughout the month of July.

Swae Lee explained the philosophy of Sremmlife to Canada’s Exclaim! Publication last year as “waking up every day and being the best version of yourself.” He went on to say, “It’s you being you, owning your lifestyle with love and positivity.” And while the duo can get controversial, they do manage to stay happy and that, as we see, keeps the platinum hits flowing.