A Backstage Look at Rae Sremmurd | The American Word

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A Backstage Look at Rae Sremmurd

Anand Srinivasan | 10/28/15 7:31pm
| Updated 10/28/15 7:33pm

Graeme Sloan /
American Word Magazine

Seven figures clustered and scattered randomly on one half of the Bender Arena Basketball courts, laughing and joking. Four of them sweaty and shining in the fluorescent lights, shirts off. Three of them wrestling for the ball, jeering and taunting. And two of them rap super stars, blowing off steam before the night of a crazy performance.

Swae Lee, one half of the rap duo Rae Sremmurd, grabs hold of the ball and makes it to the perimeter of the three point line where he’s met by one of the defenders — a roughly 6’5 titan of a man. The giant towers over Swae with the arm span of a condor. Swae pivots and turns in the attempts of evading him, entering into an elaborate dance. Finally, when he sees his chance, he takes the shot and sinks the three, to the cheers of his crew. The ball is passed back and the dance continues. When Swae takes his second shot the roars intensify, the ball slipping through the net elegantly. Two for two. Now everyone watches in anticipation as Swae gets ready for his third shot. Right, right, left, crossover. Swae jumps, airborne. Heads turn as the ball flies in a perfect arc, hurtling toward the basket. This time, however, Swae is the only one to make a sound: a sharp cry of disappointment. The ball bounces off the rim and into the hands of another one of the group. The game goes on as usual with Swae quickly forgetting the loss and jumping back in. The game goes on.

On Oct. 22 last week Rae Sremmurd arrived at AU to perform as a part of The Verge campus tour to promote their recently released album, “SremmLife.” Rae Sremmurd formed as a group in 2014, and originally its members Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi (pronounced Slim Jim) went by the name Dem Outta St8 Boyz. Rae Sremmurd lived for a time without a home, and as a result, they struggled to get by. Their lives were bleak, and they found hope and happiness through music. Slim told American Word in an interview after their performance, “We make music about havin’ fun, we had a lot of struggles when we was comin’ up so we make party music — we used to party so it just like formed us into who we are. We think positively.”

After the success of “No Flex Zone,” released May 15, 2014 as their first single to drop from their debut album “SremmLife,” Rae Sremmurd quickly began to rise in popularity. Then, when “No Type” dropped September 17, 2014, the group blew up, especially when it climbed to the 16th spot on the Hot 100 list — “No Type” is still, to this day, Rae Sremmurd’s most popular song. Rae Sremmurd even got the opportunity to tour with Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill for Nicki’s “Pinkprint Tour,” along with contemporaries Dej Loaf and Tinashe.

“[The Pinkprint Tour] was live,” said Slim. “Cuz I was around Dej Loaf and Tinashe. You know I was swaggin.’”

About 500 people came out to see the show in American’s Bender Arena, a large majority of them even waiting in line for over an hour. The doors opened at about 8:30 p.m., but Rae Sremmurd didn’t go on until 10:00 p.m.

The moment the duo dashed onto the stage, the energy in the house erupted and the persistent air slicing screaming of the crowd battled with the bass rattling speakers that situated themselves like sentries on either side of the stage. Swae and Slim conducted the night like it was an orchestra, bending the people to their will with their magnetic charisma — if Slim wanted the people to put their hands up, arms shot up like a marionette’s in a puppet show. If Swae commanded the crowd to bounce, the ground shook like there was an earthquake. Then the squirt guns, toilet paper rolls, and beach balls came out. Streams of toilet paper flew gracefully into the sea of people, beach balls thrown back and forth like a ship caught in the choppy waves of the Bermuda Triangle, and the squirt guns diffused jets of water like a fire hose putting out a burning building. It was absolute chaos, and yet everything seemed to follow some kind of natural flow of order.

The hour of Rae Sremmurd seemed to melt away through the fingers in a matter of minutes, but up until the last five, they had played all their hits from “This Could Be Us” to “Throw Sum Mo,” to “Come Get Her,” to “No Flex Zone” — and yet no “No Type.” Finally, when the opening chords started to whisper out from the speakers the crowd absolutely lost it.

Rae Sremmurd’s career — under that moniker — started in 2014, and has only seemed to skyrocket since 2015. “No Flex Zone” and “No Type” are both certified platinum, having sold over 1 million copies each. Even though Rae Sremmurd seem to have already made it, their journey has only just begun. In the interview with Rae Sremmurd, Slim was asked where he wanted to be five years from now, and the twenty year old replied with a one word answer: “Drizzy.” Rae Sremmurd may have already made their first three with their platinum “No Flex Zone.” They may have even sunk their second three with their song “No Type” peaking at 13 on the Hot 100. But what’s going to happen when they go up for that third shot? Will they make it to Drake’s level of fame and success? The more important question is what they will do if they miss: Will they fall to their knees in defeat, or will they keep on playing like it never happened? Because either way, the game goes on.