There is a thin line between cohesion and redundancy. Some critics will praise an album for “flowing so well together” while others will claim that “every song sounds the same.” The latter criticism is probably fair for Rae Sremmurd‘s debut album, SremmLife but at the same time, the record seems so damn likable.
The duo’s hit single, “No Flex Zone” is the exemplar of the formula: Mike WiLL Made-It beat + amateurish braggadocio from what sounds like boys on the cusp of pubescence. It doesn’t sound like it should be quite as good as it is, but through a sing-songy flow and pure repetition “No Flex Zone” ends up being a severe earworm. The “No Flex Zone” formula is then co-opted for the entire album including subsequent singles “No Type” and “Up Like Trump.”
The only time the formula is really broken is when a guest is added to the track. In the case of “Throw Sum Mo,” Young Thug blends in so well with the duo you might miss his appearance. Nicki Minaj who also appears on the track, feels like a natural fit into the duo’s world of drugs, misogyny and liquor.
Even when not working with Mike WiLL Made-It (which fear not, only happens twice on the album), the tracks still manage to sound like WiLL produced them. Album closer, “Safe Sex Pay Checks” holds so many of the same characteristics as “No Flex Zone,” it ends up being the second catchiest track on the record.
But what can we learn from SremmLife? Being a derivative of your one moment of success can catapult you to stardom? Perhaps but that does set a dangerous precedent reinforcing creative stagnation in lieu of cash flow. In this particular moment, however, SremmLife is actually a pretty good album.