Outkast set a high bar for hip-hop. Duo Rae Sremmurd wants to clear it

The only thing backwards about the up-and-coming hip-hop group Rae Sremmurd is their name, which is the group’s label, EarDrummers, spelled in reverse (sort of). Otherwise, 26-year-old Slim Jxmmi, and 22-year-old Swae Lee have pushed the new school of hip-hop forward with a penchant for infectious party hits and fashion-forward style. With a new album and signature Reebok sneakers coming out later this year, the pair has their sights set on ascending to more rarified air.

Rae Sremmurd’s infectious 2016 hit Black Beatles was impossible to avoid, and became the duo’s first No. 1 record on the Billboard Hot 100 in a distinctly millennial fashion: The mannequin challenge on social media. Thousands of people, including one of the original Beatles, Paul McCartney, made Black Beatles-soundtracked videos of themselves frozen in action like mannequins while a moving camera filmed them. The trend helped the group’s Gucci Mane-assisted single garner nearly 400 million streams, making it the 16th most streamed song of 2016 in just three months.

Now, the rambunctious duo are preparing their most ambitious endeavor yet, Sremmlife 3, a three-disc effort featuring a solo album from both members and a duo album. Speaking with Digital Trends at the Reebok Fast Flexweave launch party in New York City, Rae Sremmurd compared themselves to Outkast, detailed their upcoming SremmBok shoes, and let fans know when they can expect to hear Sremmlife 3.

Reebok has been in hip-hop culture for decades. What are some of your earliest memories of Reebok collaborations with hip-hop?

Slim Jxmmi: If I’m being honest, I don’t know a lot of Reebok collaborations, but I do know that Juvenile did rock the Reeboks. That was a real big influential thing. I liked it.

Swae Lee: Didn’t Run-D.M.C. used to wear Reeboks?

Nah. They wore Adidas.

Swae Lee: Oh, yeah. [Laughs] Well, that early era with the jumpsuits. The Reebok jumpsuits, and the Reebok Classics with the shades.

You signed an endorsement deal with Reebok last summer. Have you been designing your new sneaker?

Swae Lee: Oh yeah. We got some crazy SremmBoks coming soon. They’re designer shoes coming with Sremmlife 3 the album. SremmBok.

What have you learned in the process of working on your first shoe?

Slim Jxmmi: We haven’t started the process yet.

“They tried to compare us to Outkast. [Outkast] didn’t do this.”

Swae Lee: I already got my shoes coming. They’re going to be crazy. Look out for them joints.

Slim Jxmmi: Well, I ain’t started yet. When I start, I’ll let you know what the process is like.

Swae Lee: I walked right in the office. I had my designs ready. Photos. They printed them up on the shoe. The shoe came out crazy. Took about three tries, and came out crazy. Dropping in stores around the world.

Are you going to release the shoes like you do the album, with three separate shoes? One for each of you and then a Rae Sremmurd shoe?

Swae Lee: That’s a good idea.

Slim Jxmmi: We’re like a trio, but we’re a duo. So, it’s like, how are you a triple threat?

Rae Sremmurd Sremmlife 3

How did the idea of dropping three albums as one for Sremmlife 3 come about? That’s pretty ambitious.

Slim Jxmmi: Honestly, for me, the idea came when the world started saying, “Damn, the group would be so much better if Slim Jxmmi wasn’t in it.” You could take that two ways. Incredibly angry, frustrated, and you can hate the world. Or, you could be like, these people think this of me. So, let me go ahead and deliver and show them what I got to say. That’s what this tape is. It’s a Slim Jxmmi side, and they already want a Swae Lee side. Why not give the people what they want? Also, we got a lot of Rae Sremmurd fans — to appease them we’re going to also drop the Rae Sremmurd side. The Slim Jxmmi side is up in the air of what you should expect. I just dropped my first solo song, Brxnks Truck, and people are really rocking with it. Shout out to everybody.

“I plan on being in the game for about 45 years.”

Swae Lee: That’s my brother. One thing about Rae Sremmurd is we always do different shit. So, we was thinking that we not about to drop another album. Everybody dropping albums. Making hella songs, but they doing it for streaming purposes, or whatever they’re doing it for. We ain’t doing it for that reason. We waited a whole year, and y’all didn’t get any music from us for a whole year. So, it’s time to come back strong and heavy.

SremmLife 3 coming soon, triple disc. Nobody ever did it. Outkast hasn’t done it. They tried to compare us to Outkast. They didn’t do this. This is a triple disc.

Slim Jxmmi: Shout out to Outkast.

Swae Lee: Shout out to Outkast. No disrespect to them.

Slim Jxmmi: I would compare Swae Lee to Andre 3000.

Swae Lee: I want to work with them for sure.

Slim Jxmmi: Big Boi is a great lyricist. That’s why people say, “That’s the Big Boi of the group.” You right. I go hard and I’m low-key. I know what it is with me. I got money. I’m doing my thing.

I’m glad you mentioned streaming numbers. With all the popularity of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, and streaming being a big part of your success, do you feel there’s a possibility a streaming service could ever become a record label?

Swae Lee: Yeah

Would you ever sign to a streaming service?

Swae Lee: I would definitely fuck with the streaming services heavy. They showing love. They definitely have major pull, major power. We provide them with great music they can stream and have people gravitate towards. So, it’s a mutual thing. They’re like record labels in themselves. They generate money. They get the music out to the people. People make memberships with them. I plan on being in the game for about 45 years. Until I’m about 70, or some shit. It’s definitely a strong partnership I want to build and strengthen.

We’d do a deal.

Rae Sremmurd Sremmlife 3

Slim Jxmmi: I’m EarDrummers, baby. If we could do some type of side partnership that includes my people, my EarDrummers family. I’m EarDrummers, baby …

Swae Lee: We love all of the streaming services. Shout out to the streaming services. We win, y’all win. Y’all win, we win. Let’s get it.

Last question, when is Sremmlife 3 coming?

Swae Lee: The album is coming in April. It’s dropping big time. No ifs, ands, or buts. Sremmlife 3 coming your way.