By Jules Muir
Rae Sremmurd (that’s “ear” backwards and “drummers” backwards) is comprised of two brothers from Tupelo, Mississippi. They go by Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy, and while most people still don’t know how to pronounce their name, everyone who is reading this has likely heard their music. “No Flex Zone! No Flex Zone!” Sound familiar?
They broke out with one of the catchiest songs of the year, an infectious track titled “No Flex Zone” that spread with the quickness that only the modern world knows. The danger, of course, is that Rae Sremmurd would disappear as quickly as they arrived, but their follow up song “No Type” is just as good and almost as catchy, and there’s something charming about these guys that they seem to be able to communicate with everything they deliver.
Right now, Rae Sremmurd is on the rise, but rewind it back a few years and things were very different for the aspiring hit-makers. The two bounced around from house to house in Mississippi, out on their own for much of their young lives. They tried to balance work with school and still find time to focus on their craft, and it wasn’t always easy.
Under the guidance of Mike Will Made It and his EarDrummers production team, the abounding charisma of Rae Sremmurd is finally getting them to where they want to be. As their dreams begin to develop into reality, we got them on the phone for a brief interview as they traced back their roots, spoke on their crazy new life, and talked about what the future holds.
Who do I have on the line?
Both of us are Rae Sremmurd, Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy
How’ve you guys been?
Pretty good, we can’t complain. Super busy though, we’re constantly moving and never know what we’re doing next.
Where are you now?
California. We’re doing some studio work. We’re actually at the W right now.
Do you like it?
It’s like the American dream to move to Cali.
You started in Mississippi and now you’re moving around to places like California for work.
Yeah, Tupelo, Mississippi. The moving feels pretty normal. It’s something that we’re used to. We moved around a lot when we were kids but now it’s like a feeling of success. We’ve worked so hard to get here and took so many risks. It’s a good feeling.
After school we’d teach ourselves how to use it and whenever we had free time we’d be creating songs. Make the beat, write the vocals, we did the best mixing we could, and then we’d post it on Youtube and Myspace.
When did you first start getting into music?
We were real young. We’ve always been rapping together, we actually made our own studio with a computer mic and software. We had Q Base and Music Maker, and then we got Fruityloops to learn how to make beats. After school we’d teach ourselves how to use it and whenever we had free time we’d be creating songs. Make the beat, write the vocals, we did the best mixing we could, and then we’d post it on Youtube and Myspace. We always found some time to do it.
What inspired that?
We listened to everybody and we were always trying to find new people. We looked at people like Outkast, they transcended time down there in Atlanta. There wasn’t a lot of rap (in Atlanta) but then they came out as that crazy duo, rocking, and showing people it could be done.
Did you always know you wanted to be a duo?
I don’t know, at first we had three and then on two different occasions it didn’t work so we just fell back to each other.
Is it ever hard being brothers on the road?
Slim Jimmy: Yeah, sometimes I gotta whip my brother, you know what I’m saying? Whip him in line, but he’s good most of the time. [Laughs]
Swae Lee: That’s bullshit! That’s fuckin bullshit! [Laughs]
What was growing up in Tupelo like?
It was pretty good. I mean, you got to make opportunities happen—you can’t just sit around. It’s a small country town, it teaches you the fundamentals like family and stuff—but you really have to make the most of it. It’s not a place that’s going to give you any handouts, but it was a fun place to grow up in, I guess.
When you weren’t making music what would you be doing?
We’d be working and trying to pay bills. We were out and about in the world at a young age, we moved from house to house. We looked at everything from the positive side though, we were just breezing by, all these bad things were happening but we were still able to have fun and do us. We were working, we would go to school, we might throw a party and play our new music, but while doing all that we were just some young guys in a little crew. We knew we were going to make something out of music no matter where we were staying at, no matter what anybody said, we’d always come back to the music.
Was bouncing around a personal decision?
It was a personal decision, we were so hungry. We were about 16-17 when we started going out of state, chasing dreams, and making moves for ourselves. We wanted to show our friends, “You can do this, don’t let anything hold you back.” We believed in ourselves so much, we kept grinding and working and we always knew it would pay off.
Looking back on unstable times though, it must feel good?
We know we came up in life, like wow, we made it! [Laughs] Sremm Life every day!
What’s Sremm Life mean to you guys?
Riding in the front seat, living the good life, making it. Ballin’!
Who’s been the coolest person you’ve met through this new life? Have you been starstruck?
Slim Jimmy: Man I haven’t been starstruck yet and everyone is real cool. But the person we really kicked it with that was super dope was Wiz Khalifa. He was family off the rip and then we kicked it with him. That was another person we listened to growing up.
Swae Lee: Honestly, the coolest person has been Mike Will.
When did you guys decide on your name, Rae Sremmurd?
Back in Tupelo we were going by a different name but when we ended up getting discovered by the EarDrummers camp, we were wondering how we could bring these two worlds together. They gave us our chance and we were trying to come up with a new sound and come together to make it work. We ended up just flipping EarDrummers backwards and it became Rae Sremmurd. It was a whole new name and it sounded so perfect for the sound, that digital, trappy, hard, 808, knocky sound that was coming out.
How did you guys get discovered?
When we were real young we actually took a trip down to Atlanta and we ended up bumping into them. We linked up with them there and then had to go back to Mississippi, but we stayed in touch. We kept saying we were gonna go out there and work and then we ended up with a chance to do it and that’s exactly what happened. We made all these banger songs and we vibed out. They actually moved us out there with them because we were working on our own in Mississippi just staying afloat, working 9-5, getting money however we could. They said “Leave everything that you’re doing there and just come out to Atlanta.”
It sounds like they really took you under their wing.
Exactly. Actually the crazy part about it is they were the ones that discovered us so we bonded with them before we even met Mike Will. Mike Will was so busy at the time so he never really stopped through. We ended up bonding with all the EarDrummers, and they’re like our family. P-Nasty, Marz, J-Bo, A Pluz, everybody.
Then one day Mike Will finally just came up while we were doing what we always do: freestyling and jumping around.
What was that first interaction with Mike Will Made It like?
We were at the EarDrummers’ house. P-Nasty would be telling Mike, “Yo we got these guys over here that are crazy, they have this energy.” Then one day Mike Will finally just came up while we were doing what we always do: freestyling and jumping around. He came in and we all turnt up, there was a creative vibe and we all started making songs.
Did you come up with “No Flex Zone” by freestyling?
No, we were back at our home, we were working out of a nice home set-up in Atlanta with P-Nasty. We got back late, it was actually morning time and we just got in the studio and turned the beat loud.
Did you realize how big of a record it was going to be?
I mean we knew it was good, but we realized it was a big song because everyone we would play it for would give some sort of crazy response. It didn’t matter if they were black, white, fat, or Australian, everyone would like the song. We were like, “Okay we have some crazy shit here.” We were checking Twitter to see if people were fucking with the song, and one time we went on and there was just so many random “No Flex Zone” tweets. This was all within a month of dropping it. We were like, “Okay, we did what we wanted to do.”
No Flex Zone came naturally. We turned on the beat…
[Starts singing] “No Flex Zone! No Flex Zone!”
It was just another one of the ideas we had, we have so many songs in the can.
What was Mike Will’s first reaction?
He was like, “What the fuck!?” In a good way though, I remember he said, “This right here, this is a game-changer,” and that’s what it ended up being.
Then Nicki Minaj goes on to remix it….
I wanted to run up the wall or slap somebody. It was a crazy experience, that’s like who I grew up listening to when I was younger, you know?
Did you feel any pressure following up such a big song?
No no no, we’re always in the studio, we live in the studio. A lot of people thought, “Oh, they’re just one-hit wonders, they don’t have anymore songs after ‘No Flex.’” That’s why we had to drop “No Type.” We’re going to keep dropping music forever. 50 years of Sremm!
That “No Type” cover, who came up with that?
Mike Will is a genius, he came up with the concept to combine all the icons in the female world. Then the tie-dye, that’s Sremm life, gotta have tie-dye, we’re free spirits.
If you had to choose one girl off that cover who would it be?
Now that’s like the hardest question ever asked in mankind right there! [Laughs] That’s the hardest question in the world. I would choose the girl on the cover just to have them all. [Laughs] Man I can’t even give you an answer. Brain overload! Brain overload!
Looking ahead, what gets you excited about the future?
Everything, I like to be able to go to different cities where nobody knows us—all they know is the song we put out—and they treat you like family. They welcome you with open arms and just start screaming all your lyrics. But I hate waking up in the morning man, golly! Six in the morning man to get to everything! I can’t even party hard sometimes.
Where do you guys get this energy from?
I think it was something in the water. [Laughs] We’ve always just been tweakin’ and having a lot of energy, trying to have a good time, turn up, party. It’s something we’ve always had and now we always will.
What’s the next step for Rae Sremmurd?
We’re unpredictable man, we don’t like to be predictable. You never know what we’re going to do. You never know.