Tupelo, Mississippi. It’s the home of Elvis Presley, but even for those clued in on that fun fact, it’s safe to say that few, if any, know much more about the city. Nestled in the northeast corner of the Magnolia State, and with a population of just over 35,000, indeed, Tupelo, like most small metropolises, is easy to overlook. Rae Sremmurd – pronounced “Ray-Shrim-er,” consisting of real life brothers Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee, the first act signed to multi-platinum producer Mike WiLL Made-It’s Ear Drummer Records – is out to change that.
Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee were born in California, but moved to Tupelo at an early age, where they were raised in the notorious Ida Street housing projects, some of the worst, most crime-ridden in the state. Making matters worse, Sremmurd’s parents split while the brothers were still young, a devastating turn of events that found the brothers, over multiple stretches, seeking shelter in abandoned homes scattered throughout the area. For a city with little history outside of its musical heritage, and in a state where two young kids short on role models could look up to the growing star power of in-state hero David Banner, music, from a young age, became a way for Jxmmi and Lee to escape the desperation of their surroundings. “When we were growing up, it was just about perseverance,” says Slim Jxmmi, before flipping a quote made famous by Stark Trek character Richard Wakinyan. “Regardless of the situation, we couldn’t let the haters win.”
The movement started locally, with the brothers throwing parties and shows around town, often in the same abandoned buildings where they once stayed. The pair always had larger ambitions, though, and so the brothers, natural performers since elementary school, taught themselves how to record, make beats, and DJ, building enough buzz to earn an appearance on the popular “Wild Out Wednesdays” segment during BET’s music video countdown show, 106th & Park. Back home, Lee and Jxmmi earned the attention of fellow Tupelo native P-Nazty, who also happens to be a producer signed to super producer Mike WiLL Made-It’s Eardrummers Entertainment production team. P-Nazty introduced Rae Sremmurd to Mike WiLL, and the multi-platinum producer (Rihanna, Jay Z, Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Future, Juicy J) was instantly impressed by the brothers’ energy and the quality of their music, signing the duo to his label, Ear Drummer Records. “When I met them,” recalls WiLL, “they just had a real young dope energy about them. So me and the Ear Drummer team locked in the studio like we normally do, had a lot of fun, and cooked up some amazing music. This is just the beginning of our working relationship, and they’ve got a bright future. I believe in them.”
Rae Sremmurd’s first single under the Ear Drummer Records, “No Flex Zone,” was a breakout for the duo, becoming a cultural touchstone throughout 2014 and entering Billboard’s Hot 100 and Top 40, peaking at number 36, while earning the brothers a performance on the 2014 BET Hip-Hop Awards, along with a remix from Nicki Minaj and Pusha T, and co-signs from the likes of Kim Kardashian, Justin Timberlake, Juicy J, and plenty more. The follow-up, “No Type,” has proved even bigger, peaking at number 16 on Billboard’s Top 40 charts and earning the duo their first late night appearance, with a performance (a medley of “No Flex Zone” and “No Type”) on The Tonight Show. To start 2015, Rae Sremmurd released their highly anticipated first album, SremmLife, with a top 5 debut on the Billboard Top 200 and a number 1 debut on Billboard Hip-Hop, and have since had “Throw Sum Mo,” featuring Nicki Minaj & Young Thug, emerge as their third consecutive single to break into the top 10 at urban radio and second consecutive single, following “No Type,” to peak at #1. With each new success, Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi have managed to keep a level head, focused simply on showing the world what two young brothers from Tupelo can achieve. “It’s the energy, that’s what #SremmLife is all about” says Swae Lee. “We bringing the fun back to music!”