Rae Sremmurd on Performing Live: 'We Want It to Be Like ... a Party'

Rae Sremmurd 2015
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for American Express

Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd perform onstage at American Express UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence Concert with BORNS, Gavin James, Pia Mia and Rae Sremmurd at El Rey Theatre on Aug. 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  

Brothers Khalif "Swae Lee" and Aaquil "Slim Jxmmi" Brown, who make up the hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd, are natural born entertainers with a seemingly unlimited supply of energy.

Sitting backstage at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre after performing at a sold-out concert on Aug. 20 to launch the second cycle of American Express’ UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence program, the Atlanta-based brothers reminisced about their journey from the housing projects in Tupelo, Miss., to rising rap stars.

VIDEO: Backstage with Rae Sremmurd at the Amex AIR concert

“Since we were little kids we used to do the barbecues, the freestyle battles at school, all the talent show,” Slim Jxmmi told Billboard, barely able to sit still in his seat after their live set. “[Performing is] something that we love to do.”

Swae Lee passionately adds, “When we come into the building, we don’t want it to be, like, ‘You’re at a show or a concert.’ We want it to be like, ‘Man, I’m at a party!”

Amex AIR: The Journeys of Pia Mia, Børns, Rae Sremmurd and Gavin James

The sibling duo’s passion makes them a perfect for American Express’ UNSTAGED: Artists in Residence program, which launched in 2014 with the aim of boosting awareness of up-and-coming musical talent. Other artists involved in this year’s campaign include Pia Mia, Børns and Gavin James.

Rae Sremmurd released their debut album, SremmLife, earlier this year on producer Mike WiLL Made-It’s Eardruma Records, an imprint on Interscope. The group has already earned four top 20 hits on the Hot Rap Songs, including top 10s "No Flex Zone,” "No Type" and "Throw Sum Mo" (featuring Nicki Minaj). Sremmlife bowed at No. 1 on the Rap Albums chart.

VIDEO: Rae Sremmurd performs "Come Get Her" live at Amex AIR concert

With an already promising career ahead, Swae Lee says that being associated with the AIR campaign will help take Rae Sremmurd to the next level. “We’re from this world over here and American Express is from this world over here, so coming together is crazy,” the rapper says.

Meanwhile, running around shirtless backstage after tearing down the house at the El Rey, Slim Jimmy may have come up with the financial services company’s next slogan. “American Express, Sremm Life the best!” he shouted.

Billboard Hot 100 Fest 2016


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.