Maybe it was the five Bud Lights, maybe it was the ambiance at Magic City, or maybe, just maybe, "No Type" is a great song. Either way, as glitter, the fumes of stripper sweat and broken dreams filled the air at Magic City, I was captivated by "No Type." Before that journey to Atlanta, I would never have given Rae Sremmurd the time of day, but since, "No Type" has been in heavier rotation like a Rick Ross dreidel.
Still, I thought I was chasing a mirage.
When it comes to music, I ain't got no type, but bad trap music is about the only thing I don't like. Despite my love for that catchy ass song, I had written off Rae as bad trap. I was hesitant to listen to "No Flex Zone" or "Up Like Trump" for fear that they wouldn't resonate with me like "No Type" did. If I hated these other songs, it might ruin "No Type" for me, and since I can't stop listening to it, I didn't want that. To me "No Type" was an outlier, an exception. It's ostentatious, gaudy, and downright absurd; it kills brain cells and I love every second of it. For precisely three minutes and twenty two seconds, I am taken to another world where I ain't living right and I love it, but when it's over I go back to being that backpacking rap nerd who geeks over a great sample.
Three and a half minutes? Sure. But could Rae really keep me for a whole album? It might seem scary, but ruining "No Type" is a chance I am going to have to take. The curiosity is too much. I have to know just what I am dealing with. So now that Rae Sremmerd has officially released their debut album, Sremm Life, I guess now is a good time to find out if they are my type.
Turns out no. Nope. Nah. Nein. Niet. Negatory.
This album makes me feel hungover, and as I grow closer to 30, hangovers are brutal. Aside from a few moments (that we will get to) this album had me feeling like I was in line at Starbucks after a night of drinking and wanted to combust rather than face another minute of being brutally and oppressively hungover. Just existing in public is damn near impossible. It's like the world is going on around me, but I'm stuck on pause; it's an out of body experience caused by woe, pain, heartburn, and a splatter of shame. So much noise, so much going on, it makes it impossible to focus on anything but my searing head pain and nausea. When I can focus on the world, all I hear is noise which makes my headache even worse. I want to die right there in line at Starbucks as badly as I want to eat a greasy egg sandwich and, each time I make a hungover venture, I feel closer and closer to actually dying. Sensory overload.
Sadly, that's exactly how I felt listening to this album.
I simply wasn't ready for the cacophony of sounds, the sloppy spattering of shrieking that dominates Sremm Life. I really wanted to like this album, but after the first two minutes, I already felt queasy. There is so much going on it's impossible to actually listen, and once you steady yourself to listen to the beat, the lyrics hit you like that last Fireball shot you totally didn't need.
It feels like Rae Sremmerud don't quite know who they are, so they are trying to be trap, but in reality, that aggressive, hostile style is not right for them. Their nasally voices aren't annoying (well they are but it's kind of the appeal) but they become almost un-listenable over heavier beats. Instead of playing to their strengths - charisma and light, unique vocals that work over more melodic songs - they are overcompensating for their lack of bite; they get all aggressive when it's just not their nature.
Take "My X." As far as beats go, Young Chop could not have crafted a better one. Had this track gone to someone with a growling, swaying flow, it might have worked, but Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy don't have the punch, the power, to make it work. God bless 'em they try, but I think them trying made it worse. Hearing them scream, shout, and drone on is painful; they don't have the command that guys like Jeezy or Ross, granted seasoned veterans, who kill beats like this, do. Similar to a puzzle, the beat and the artist have to fit a certain way. The emcee should bring out the best in the beat and vice-versa, but here it sounds like they are trying to fit in pieces that simply won't. On "Yno," they are perhaps the most out of their (no flex) zone and it becomes even more apparent when Big Sean (my least favorite rapper) sounds more at home. There was so much happening on completely different ends of the spectrum, that it left me with that same hopeless, dizzy, head-splitting feeling of a hangover.
Still, like that first gulp of water or first bite into the egg and cheese, there are redeeming qualities to this rap hangover. At times, when the beats have a little more bounce and melody, Sremm Life really works. Take "No Type" (which needs no breakdown) and "This Could Be Us." The latter is perhaps the most complete, most effective song on the album; that includes the big hits ( the beloved "No Type" and "Up Like Turmp") too. Trappy synths are replaced with a more melodic production that has some youthful bounce to it. Swae and Slim don't have to yell or scream to be heard, instead taking a cooler, smooth approach and the result is a really fun listen. I love "No Type" because it's just absurd, but, lyrics aside, I genuinely enjoy "This Could Be Us." Still, like a hangover, the ephemeral waves of clarity and goodness are quickly replaced with pain and anguish and in the end, there isn't enough juice to make this worth the squeeze.
So if you're similarly not already a Rae Sremmurd fan and you're wondering if the album is worth your time, it isn't. But while I was pretty tough on the kids, I want to make it known that I still like them. Normally, I would hate an artist for putting something like this out into the world, but fuck, these kids are fun and charismatic, and though they clearly haven't mastered their sound yet, I don't think I'm done with them.
To continue with the hangover theme, we all say "I'm never drinking again" but in reality is we always do. I wish I could say, "I'll never listen to them again," but reality is, I am willing to give them some more chances because sometimes, the pain is worth the fun of the night before.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]