As the clock struck midnight on Aug. 25th, EA Sports unveiled their latest release of Madden ’18 to the public, though hours prior, the gaming company held a countdown celebration at New York City’s Skylight Modern. The “Madden @ Midnight” event included cameos from former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, Friday Night Lights star Scott Porter and The Night Shift’s JR Lemon — all of whom star in the cinematic Longshot mode of the latest release to the Madden franchise. The soundtrack to the game boasts a bevy of talent ranging from French Montana to GoldLink, Vic Mensa, Steve Aoki and Travis Scott, as well as the cut “Bars Of Soap” from Mike WiLL Made-It featuring Swae Lee of dynamic duo Rae Sremmurd. Prior to the game’s official midnight drop, Rae Sremmurd graced the event’s stage with a solid run through their hits, including the colossal, chart-topping “Black Beatles.”
For Rae Sremmurd, everything changed, theoretically at least, almost a year ago to date. “Black Beatles,” which features Gucci Mane, became the catalyst, as the Tupelo, Miss. duo skyrocketed to the top of the Hot 100 within two months of the song’s release. The two also took home a Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Collaboration earlier this year. Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi have come a long way since their “No Flex Zone” days, when the consensus wrongfully assumed they’d be a flash in the pan group with one hot hit, and not an entire Ear Drummers movement in tow.
The latest feather in Swae Lee’s bandana is a feature on French Montana’s “Unforgettable” — the song has peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100, with 19 weeks on the chart — yet another indication that Rae Sremmurd’s star is steadily rising. However, somewhere in the midst of Snapchat stories and solo projects sits a rumor that the group may part ways, with 2016’s SremmLife 2 as their final project. Both Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi dispelled that rumor as myth, though both are still readying solo works; Swae Lee’s Swaecation is still very much on the calendar, as is Slim Jxmmi’s Project Jxm (formerly Uncle Jxmmi).
The breakups-and-solo-efforts conversation is far from new; the same rumor mill churned before “Black Beatles” and the Mannequin Challenge even hit. And while Rae Sremmurd may at some point seek out their individual voices (Swae Lee arguably has a head start), for now the goal is to bring SremmLife 3 to the masses, delivering on their promise of keeping their music authentic and true to themselves. The two sat down exclusively with Billboard to talk about their past year and what’s to come from hip-hop’s most underestimated, yet most imitated, duo on the scene.
Billboard: It’s been almost a year since “Black Beatles” dropped. How has life changed for you both since then?
Swae Lee: Man, everything’s crazy. That song definitely changed the world. It made the world freeze up. We thought we had a lot of fans before, but after “Black Beatles” we gained 10 times more. It just put us on a bigger platform. We’re able to reach more people. It put us in a better space, basically.
Slim Jxmmi: Yeah, it opened more doors and gave us bigger opportunities.
There’s been talk that SremmLife 2 was the last Rae Sremmurd album. Is that a rumor?
Swae Lee: That’s a myth!
Slim Jxmmi: Fake news!
Swae Lee: We young. We creative. We livin’ our lives. Sometimes people may be too tuned in and they misconstrue things. Yeah, so that was just a myth. We’ve got many, many, many more projects coming. Many more songs coming, many more features coming. It’s just the beginning.
How have things changed for your career since “Unforgettable”?
Swae Lee: Same story. We still winnin’ big, everywhere. It just gave [us] more respect. They gotta respect what you do more.
At this stage in your career, you’ve been around for a few years now, yet it feels like you’ve moved up the ranks pretty quickly.
Swae Lee: It is pretty crazy. But it’s like, we ain’t stoppin’, we’re still staying consistent, thriving and winning. Dropping more songs, dropping bangers, yet it’s still quality music. It’s not “one hit wonder” music. It’s different every time. The production is great, lyrics are crazy. Every time. I think that’s why we’re winning. We ain’t gonna stop workin’.
You’ll definitely be cooking up some heat with Mike WiLL Made-It I’m guessing?
Swae Lee: Mike WiLL Made-It is definitely gonna be in the mix. His vision is crazy. We trust him and we’re on the same page. Everything we create, it just goes together so perfectly. It blends so perfectly.
Slim Jxmmi: *sprinkle motion* he’s the salt man.
Like Salt Bae?
Slim Jxmmi: Ha! Yeah.
Do you feel like you’ve set the standard for what’s hot today? When you first came out, people were like, “What are they doing?” But now, you’ve already inspired a new class of artists. Little Ear Drummers everywhere.
Swae Lee: You hear that Rae Sremmurd influence, right? We have babies; definitely little babies. Shout out to all them clones. We settin’ trends left and right since we came from the “No Flex Zone” days. I feel like everyone’s looking to us like, “What’s next?” From Slim Jxmmi doing the goggles, to me with the bandanas, John Lennon lenses, shaving my dreads on the side, whatever. We just settin’ trends; we just bein’ different. Music is just so oversaturated. Everybody wants to do the same thing, so you need leaders. We don’t wanna be in the same pool as all these other artists. So yeah, we stay different. New trends coming soon.
So what’s next?
Swae Lee: SremmLife 3. New videos coming. We got clothes, movies. Video games. We’re everywhere. We just wanna branch out.
Slim Jxmmi: Find us on your TV. Internet. Social Media. We’ve got all types of stuff poppin’ off.
Madden ’18 is available now via EA Sports.