Welcome to [istandard] and welcome to [The Chopping Block], where we respond and react to music from the creator point of view. In the tradition of our classic Track-By-Track series, we get into the beats, bpms, mix, arrangement, penmanship, vocal production, panning, low-passing, mixing, mastering and more. Respect the creators!
Welcome to the Sremm life! The brotherly Hip Hop duo, Rae Sremmurd, returns with the third album installment, titled and stylized as SR3MM.
They decided to deliver a 3 disc project this time around. Perhaps, it was due to the growing fame and demand from the group's members. In an environment where the streaming wars are taking precedent, maybe the 27 track project will be the right move for the Ear Druma and Interscope record labels.
Disc 1 SR3MM
1. "Up In My Cocina"
[Prod. Mike WiLL Made-It, Pluss]
There are no big surprises out of the gate. Swae Lee works simple rhymes over relatively repetitive 4 bar loop. The occasional stutter effect is used to add nuance. Although the lead pattern is basic, I feel like they took the original loop and added some engineering work to it give the plucks some designed flavor.
2. "CLOSE" ft. Travis Scott
[Prod. 30Roc, Mike WiLL Made-It]
I'm liking that dark, grimy feel on the lead. It's seemingly low passed with the gritty texture. I suspect light distortion. It's not overbearing as Swae Lee and especially Travis Scott both need space for their vocals. Slim Jxmmi impresses with an uptempo verse, also. My interest went up when I saw 30Roc credited on this track. He's been on some dope records recently and he delivers. I suspect that the subtle drum switches were a contribution from him. It's wise because the transitions keep the listeners' ears "awake" without overstimulating them.
3. "Bedtime Stories" ft. The Weeknd
[Prod. Marz, Mike WiLL Made-It]
The keys are doing it for me. It's weird, I feel like I could listen to them looped forever. They're so simple and pleasant. Slim Jxmmi killed his verse. The vocal engineer/producer deserves recognition. Wikipedia has Jaycen Joshua credited for mixing. The beat sounds like you're in a dream and the artists are fighting their way out. It's not a nightmare, but the sonics aren't overly cute and soft, by any means.
4. "Perplexing Pegasus"
[Prod. J-BO, Kent Lucciano, Mike WiLL Made-It]
I feel like I'm being hypnotized, whenever I hear this song. Maybe, that's the curse of the 4 bar loop. No, but let's be serious. The scape of these sounds is similar to "Bedtime Stories" because it melodically lulls you. "Bedtime Stories" was a brighter track, in comparison. This track's 146 bpm pace keeps things moving, but the energy level feels relatively low.
5. "Buckets" ft. Future
[Prod. Marz, Mike WiLL Made-It]
This track is annoyingly similar to "Perplexing Pegasus." At 140 bpm, the tempo dips slightly. It's the rhythm and hi-hats that give it any life. Future's featured verse adds a taste of nuance, but it's not much. I think the sequencing could have been improved with a different song's vibe. The kick and 808 combo is awesome, though.
[Prod. Diego Ave, Jemarcus "D-JaySremm" Jackson]
If you like distorted bass lines and quirky melodies, "42" is the song for you. This might sound weird, but I'm interested in the shape of the 808. It has a certain rumble and distortion that couples with the lead instruments in an odd way. The beat sounds like a video game from the 90s. Crash Bandicoot and Spyro are supposed to have new releases soon. That could be another licensing opportunity.
7. "Powerglide" ft. Juicy J
[Prod. Jean Marie Hovart, Mally Mall, Mike WiLL Made-It]
"Powerglide" samples Three 6 Mafia's "Side 2 Side." This one is pretty straightforward. There's no hiding it. Instrumentation, like major 808 presence, is added to beef up the beat for an Eardrummer appropriate rendition.
8. "Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame"
That electric guitar sound out of the gates is a nice change. It sounds like the Spinz 808 is at work here. It works well when you're trying to write those bouncy drum triplets and compositions. I can't miss those pizzicato stabs. They also can create a bouncing rhythm when used correctly, which Tm88 seems to do here.
9. "T'd Up"
[Prod. Darrel Jackson, Metro Boomin, Swae Lee]
They added a little sauce with the distortion on the 808. This song has this weird mob quality. It's dark and keeps rolling. I attribute that to the low passed synth and drum patterns. The steel pan samples were a nice touch to add some nuance to the beat.
Disc 2 Swaecation
1. "Touchscreen Navigation"
[Bizness Boi, Daniel + Harry, Singawd]
Swae Lee starts off with good vibes. I like the snare choice. It's such a Pop snare. It sounds great when the pattern overlaps it on a kick. The combination is thick and solid. The break at 2:10 is odd. It's just the beat and no lyrics. The song seems unfinished there. His mid-range harmonies aren't bad but his falsetto around the :55 mark needs some work.
2. "Heartbreak In Encino Hills"
[Prod. Mally Mall, Scorp Dezel]
The flanging guitar loop feels nostalgic. It pans gently from side to side. This 808 choice seems out of place, though. It's punchy on a song that calls for smoothness. This is a great snare choice. It's a sound we don't hear a lot in Rae Sremmurd songs. About halfway through this track, I realize that I hope the rest of Swaecation isn't Swae Lee trying to over sing. It's cool to flex the vocals and add nuance to songs and repertoire, but sometimes it's a little much.
3. "Heart Of The Moment"
[Prod. Chop Squad DJ]
That drum sounds like the Savage kick. It feels like some low-end frequencies were taken out as it has less "thud," but it still has that distinct sound. Flute sounds have been popular in Hip Hop/Trap for a couple years now. This one, in particular, sounds similar to the one Murda Beatz used in "Get Right Witcha" by Migos.
4. "Offshore" ft. Young Thug
[Prod. Marz, Mike WiLL Made-It, Cardiak]
This is that late night, chilled out trap song. Young Thug adds a needed shot of energy to switch things up. There is a subtle vox sample in the background throughout the song. It sounds like the same one form Drake's "Show Me A Good Time." I noticed that Young Thug "owns " a large part of the space on this song. He is mostly found through the middle of the track. Something like that makes me wonder about how this song came together.
[Prod. Tune Da Rula, Karl Rubin, Mally Mall]
With over 28 million Spotify plays, "Guatemala" is definitely a potential banger for the summer. Those tempting keys and light vocal samples are a deadly combo. I want more from Swae Lee's vocal performance. It sounds almost like they were distorting it in some parts. Vocally, he isn't as consistent as he was a song ago on "Offshore." Slim Jxmmi sounds out of place on the record. From a production standpoint, you could have brought in another artist that attacks this vibe to work with Swae's contribution more effectively. For what it's worth, it's a hot song. I enjoyed the overall mix the most. Take a close listen to how the piano keys and flute instrument dance with the samples in the counter-melody so smoothly. They should drop a video to up the fanfare and make a play for the summer.
6. "Lost Angels"
[Prod. Bizness Boi]
This song screams The Weeknd. The eerie synths and the crunched poppy snare is straight out of Abel's repertoire. Bizness Boi has a respectable R&B production catalog that captures that feeling, so this is not surprising. To be fair, the vocal production is on a more modern, indie vibe as opposed to The Weeknd's typical falsetto.
7. "Hurt To Look"
[Prod. Bizness Boi, Ey, FWD]
What is going on here? Swae Lee is uninspiring on some of these R&B driven songs. The producers do a great job of setting up a track to tell a dark modern R&B/Pop story and Swae's performance seems so forced.
8. "Red Wine"
[Prod. G. Ry, Neenyo]
I think I'm Swae Lee'd out at this point. He doesn't have a huge vocal range. That's okay. Most of your Top 40 acts in this era don't. When creating, we need to be aware of an album's sequencing and run length in regards to what is being asked of the lead performer. It seems like some parts of it were rushed through. The autotune plugin is doing overtime to correct pitches and it gives the song a novelty feeling instead of a simple smooth pitch correction.
9. "What's In Your Heart?"
[Prod. Bizness Boi, Fortune, Cardiak]
Uh oh! Crunchy snares have returned. I see you, Biz. This beat is beautiful. It has a dark, looming quality, but the producers manage to make it feel like it's moving forward at the same time. The stacked kicks and different kick sounds create a tumbling motion which is clever because there aren't hi-hats in the forefront to lead the rhythm.
Disc 3 Jxmtro
1. "Brxnks Truck"
[Prod. Jbo, Mike WiLL Made-It]
Yes, this sounds like Ear Drummers. The southern Trap kicks, booming 808s, and rolling hi-hats are just what the doctor ordered. That synth sound in the background is like the icing on the cake for this beat.
2. "Players Club"
[Prod. G.Lo, TLOnTheBeat]
Are super simple beats going to be a part of the direction on Jxmmi's portion? This song is a great example of when people say Hip Hop has turned into four-bar loops and simple hooks. I'm not cosigning that idea. However, this song fits into that narrative. The piano is a basic Trap piano sound. There is a flute-like sound in the background that sounds like something from the Purity VST. I'm glad this song is only 2:08.
3. "Anti-Social Smokers Club" ft. Zoe Kravitz
[Prod. Mike WiLL Made-It, Pluss]
This song sounds like new age snap music. I think it's because of the rubbery bass synth sound. As basic as Zoe Kravitz's verse was, it's a welcome nuance to the basic beat and contribution from Jxmmi. Her delivery and vocal production make her stand out here.
4. "Chanel" ft. Swae Lee & Pharrell
[Prod. 30Roc, Mike WiLL Made-It]
"Chanel" is a good pick me up song. It has a much better sound selection. Surprisingly, Pharrell doesn't have a production credit on this one. I wonder who headed up Pharrell's vocal production. It seems all over the place. I like the vocal shots on the hook. The voices on his verse were sporadic and that takes away from the smooth bragging swag he could have pulled off.
5. "Cap" ft. Trouble
[Prod. 30Roc, Mike wiLL Made-It]
I think the redeeming factor is whatever 30Roc contributed. He is probably the shot of adrenaline this lackadaisical body of tracks on Jxmmi's album needed.
6. "Changed Up'"
[Ducko, Mike WiLL Made-It]
I'm thankful for the guitar riff loop. It adds a degree of soulfulness that the album was missing for a while.
7. "Keep God First"
[Prod. Kilo Keyz, Yung Lan]
This seems like a wind-down track. It's cool, calm, and collected. The keys that lead the song are chill and laidback. This is a good choice as far as sequencing.
8. "Juggling Biddies" ft. Riff 3x
Zaytoven brings welcomed familiar sounds with his winding organ keys and Trap drums. The drums are simple, but they get the job done.
9. "Growed Up"
[Prod. Marz, Mike Will Made-It]
That vox sample from Drake's "Show Me A Good Time" is back again. This song has a good vibe and rhythm. It's melodic and sways you back and forth, in a sense.
Do I even have to say it? This album is too long. No one needs 27 songs from Rae Sremmurd in one sitting.
This project is a mixed bag of sorts. The majority feels like its missing an element when it does well in others. When the beat is on point, the artist's vocal performance is off. When the swag and delivery are there, the beat could have used some more creativity.
They definitely have some heat. Rae Sremmurd executes pretty well in quick, small doses. I can appreciate the chances Swae Lee takes as he experiments with his sound. I think he should spend more time with writers and artists that are winning with the styles he is trying to use. They could have taken the best 10-15 songs from all three discs and dropped one good album.