January proved to be a great start to the year in hip hop. If official releases from Joey Bada$$, Lupe Fiasco, and Doomtree weren’t enough, then mixtapes from names both big (Lil Wayne, Future) and small (Rome Fortune x OG Maco, Young Simmie, Young L) had enough to keep any insatiable hip hop fan satisfied. But above all towered SremmLife, the debut album from the youngsters that make up Rae Sremmurd. And while Mike Will Made It proved he could make the most out of a 20-year-old Miley on ”23“, SremmLife works so well because it doesn’t shy away from Swae Jimmy and Slim Jimmy’s youthfulness. As expected, every single track on SremmLife is imbued with the same charisma and energy that made early singles "No Flex Zone” and “No Type” so addicting. From the hyped-up meme-worthy hook on “Unlock the Swag” to the melancholic, actual meme-referencing "This Could Be Us", it’s evident that any artist with any less confidence couldn’t sell these songs the way Swae and Jimmy do. The album closes on the surprisingly radio-friendly, Honorable C.N.O.T.E.-produced "Safe Sex Pay Checks" and it’s a fitting reminder of SremmLife as a philosophy/way of life. Even more, it points to the fact that these are just a couple of guys that want to have fun. For kids that were homeless a couple years ago, they seem to understand that it’s a positive embrace of the ephemeral that makes life bearable. If there was ever a need for “real hip-hop” in January, it came in the form of SremmLife.
[note: this mini-review originally appeared in a multi-part post recounting my ten favorite records of January]