It’s a little bit before 10 PM when Swae Lee jogs up the steps and into one of the artist’s trailers parked behind 800 Congress Ave in Austin, Texas. Slim Jxmmi ambles in right behind him. Rae Sremmurd is in town to perform live as part of the Roots second annual Bud Light jam showcase at South By Southwest, but they seem a little exhausted. Their plane touched down from Las Vegas only half an hour earlier and they tore through the city from the airport to make it to the venue for their surprise mini-set.
“How much time we got before we have to hit the stage,” Swae asks no one in particular while rummaging through his bag. “Well, you were supposed to go on at 9:45,” a handler replies. Jxmmi parks himself on a couch and requests a Coca-Cola. The duo is in understandably high demand these days. Their first album SremmLife put them on the map in 2015, but it was the stunning success of the single “Black Beatles,” that catapulted the brothers to a whole new level of fame and exposure. The song soundtracked the viral mannequin challenge that made it all the way to the White House and beyond, while topping the charts for an incredible seven non-consecutive week run.
I didn’t have much time with Swae and Jxmmy, but I tried to make it count. We talked about how they’re handling their newfound success, while maintaining a rigorous work schedule. We also talked about their work with producer Mike Will Made-It on his upcoming album Ransom 2, as well as the status of their next project which could either be titled Sremmlife 3 but then again, it might not.
After our chat, I saw myself out and the brothers prepped for the show. Back in the concert hall, Black Thought from the Roots introduced Rae Sremmurd to a massive, disbelieving applause. The duo ran through a quick four-song set that included their latest single “Swang,” along with “Black Beatles” of course. When their part was over, they hightailed it up the stairs and out the side door. They had another gig in South Padre Island scheduled later that night, and the plane was waiting.
I want people to know how hard Rae Sremmurd grinds, so tell me what your last five days has been like?
Swae: A blur. The past five days I’ve been to Africa, Las Vegas, been to South by Southwest, back to Vegas. Now we about to go to South Padre Island. Crazy.
Jxmmi: I didn’t go to Africa.
You didn’t go to Africa?
Jxmmi: No, my last days been ATL, California, Texas, ATL then back to Texas for South By, then where did we go?
Jxmmi: Oh yeah, Phoenix, I forget about Phoenix.
Swae: Then Vegas, then back to South by Southwest.
Jxmmi: Half a million man. You know what I’m saying.
What’s the last year been like for you guys?
Swae: Last year it’s been like a nonstop tour, every day’s been a tour date. Every day’s been a show. We just on the ground, we got to let the world know what the Sremm life’s about.
Can you talk about what it felt like when “Black Beatles” blew up like it did?
Swae: When that “Black Beatles” blew up it was like a trophy for all our hard work. All that non-stop grinding. The whole world froze, everybody was just on the same vibe, everybody was on with that SremmLife too. It was a moment in history for music, period.
Jxmmi: I’ll tell you what it was like. We had all those songs before on Sremmlife then when that Black Beatles hits, that’s when everyone started saying that’s when we blew up. The first couple of years, I was in this thing, I was delusional, because I was thought I was in there.
Swae: Yeah, we blew up five times.
Your friend Mike WiLL Made-It has a new album coming out Friday titled Ransom 2, you’re on it. What can you tell me about the album right now?
Swae: Ransom 2, I promise you. Mike Will’s got the most slappers on this album that I ever heard. This sh*t is so banging. We got a few on there. But go get that album, that sh*t is like a masterpiece.
What’s it like working with him?
Swae: It’s great. It’s like non-stop possibilities. You’ve got all kinds of beats, you’ve got all kinds of genres. Any kind of beat you can imagine, he’s got it. Any kind of beat you can’t imagine, he’s got it. He’s going to have non-stop wave, he’s going to have some good vibes. He’s going to have some great ideas. You’re working with a genius.
What does it feel to be on a song with Kendrick Lamar?
Swae: That’s a moment in history. “Perfect Pints,” check that out. Song number seven, “Perfect Pints.”
Did you know you were going to be on, he was going to be on that track?
Swae: Nuh-uh. I made the hook, Jxmmi read the verse, Gucci read the verse, Kendrick read the verse.
You guys obviously perform a lot of shows, you’re about to hit the stage with the Roots, what’s that feel like?
Swae: They’re my brothers, it’s always fun. Just go out there and f*ck up the stage, mess up the stage real quick.
It’s gotta be cool to play around with some live drums?
Swae: It’s dope. My favorite thing is not even the drums. I like how they do their melodies, like the instruments. Not the drums, guitars, pianos or keyboards, whatever. They’ll just be going crazy, I like the sounds more than the drums.
The theme of the Bud Light Roots and Friends Jam this year is friendship, so I’m curious what does friendship mean to you guys in the music industry?
Swae: Yeah we friends with the Roots, they’re my brothers. It just gives you better vibes…
Jxmmi: I ain’t got no friends.
Jxmmi: Naw, If I f*ck with you you’re family.
Oh, next level?
Jxmmi: You know what friends turn into? Friends turn into enemies, friends start hating. I’ve got no friends. I got a straight family, they know who I am, I know who they is. They know what we’re coming with, I know what they’re coming with and when we get together, we have a celebration. It’s a celebration every time. We family. And [Roots Percussionist] Frank Knuckles, he’ll pop up to any show we got in the whole world. If it’s in Africa, and he’s in Africa, he’s going to come. If it’s Australia, he’s going to come. If it’s anywhere, he going to come, and he’s going to show mad love. So The Roots is like our brothers, our big brothers, big homies.
You guys have inspired your fair share of memes over the years. What’s your favorite meme that’s going on right now?
Swae: I like the one, it’s a woman yelling, she’s like this [cups hands around mouth]
Swae: I don’t even know who the old woman is yelling, but it’s like ‘I don’t know what the f*ck ya’ll talking about, but I need it right now. I was like, that’s funny as hell.
How important is South By Southwest to you? You’ve obviously gone to great lengths to be here tonight.
Swae: This is where we blew up, so it’s mandatory that we come here. The first year we ever blew up, we were coming out on the streets, we had a thousand CDs and we were going to all our shows. We did for shows a night. Telling the crowd, ‘when we say no flex, y’a ll say zone. No flex. “Zone!” Pushing our shit. We love South By Southwest.
You’ve got SremmLife, you’ve got SremmLife Two, are we getting SremmLife Three anytime soon?
Swae: We’re going to make the next project, I don’t know if it’s going to be SremmLife Three, but the next project that we put out is going to be a banger.
Are you already working on it?
Swae: Yeah, we’ll be working on it every day. We’re just cooking up bangers. It’s all about what song’s going to make it. What song is going to make the album, the project.
So you already got stuff in the can.
Swae: I got stuff, Slim got stuff, we got stuff together.
Got another number one in there you think?
Swae: Man, number zero, past number one. Just game changers.
So, where’s does Rae Sremmurd go from here? What’s next for you guys?
Swae: Keep creating, just keep waving. When we make our music, we ain’t thinking ‘This song’s going to be No. 36 on the charts.’ We just making good quality music, so we’re just going on creating good quality music. And let the music talk. Keep on waving.