Mainstream hip-hop is desperately looking for new stars as the biggest rappers busy themselves with other nonmusical projects.
Maybe that's why the buzz around Rae Sremmurd -- two brothers from Tupelo, Mississippi -- is so loud. Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee -- born Aaquil and Khalif Brown -- showed plenty of promise on their single "No Flex Zone," with their distinctive flows and vivid rhymes demanding attention.
Their debut, "SremmLife" (Interscope), shows off more of that potential, as they bounce their way through a variety of first-rate hip-hop backdrops provided mostly by Mike Will Made It, the producer best known for teaming with Miley Cyrus for her hip-hop phase, as well as hits for 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne and Rihanna.
While "No Flex Zone" carries that traditional Dirty South bounce, "No Type" is slowed down and spaced out. And "This Could Be Us" has pop crossover written all over it, a love song with a cuddly delivery, mostly sung by Swae Lee, and a piano-driven chorus.
It's so well-crafted that "SremmLife" often feels like a star vehicle that Rae Sremmurd simply get to hop in and drive right to the top of the charts, especially on "Throw Sum Mo," where they get upstaged by guests Nicki Minaj and Young Thug. They don't quite have the vision to carry out "No Flex Zone" and its non-boasting policy, lapsing about halfway through as they go on about bezels and chains.
The two have skills and star quality. They just need a little more help to put it all together before that Next Big Thing hype feels fully deserved.
THE GRADE B