Review Summary: This is how you start a party.
As the rather understated title may lead you to believe, Sremmlife 2 is, in fact, very much a continuation of the party-ready, poppy trap-rap that the hyperactive duo of Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi trademarked with their consistently inconsistent debut. As the rather understated first sentence may quietly imply, Sremmlife 2 is in many ways a more understated take upon the duo’s sound, trading in the what were at times quite fruity, synth-driven beats for a darker, more bass-heavy backdrop. This isn’t to say that it is any less bangin’
than its predecessor, for although a lot of the brightness has been sucked out, the added space allows the duo room to breathe; able to hit harder in shorter bursts, working in a manner almost comparable to the whole tension-and-release formula that has been taken to its logical extremes elsewhere in the musical spectrum. And where Sremmlife sometimes squandered what momentum it built with ultimately unsatisfying cuts that sat anywhere between mildly irritating and downright torturous, the successor finds a comfortable consistency; the duo now seemingly content to slow it down from time to time so that the next build is even bigger than the last. The childishly exuberant and playful Start A Party, replete with shout-along chorus (“This is how you start a party/Tell a friend to tell somebody/We about to start a party”
) makes nowhere near the impression of the standout that was Lit Like Bic, yet it is just as effective, acting in tandem with Real Chill as a near-perfect segue into one of the year-so-far’s strongest one-two punches in By Chance and Look Alive. In contrast to the aptly laid-back Real Chill, By Chance sets a strangely acerbic Swae Lee against a typically energetic Slim Jxmmi, driven along by a barebones-yet-hard-hitting piano and bass driven beat courtesy of frequent collaborator Mike WiLL Made-It. Look Alive on the other hand reflects the energy of By Chance with negative space, lush synth and a reverbed Swae Lee creating something more akin to a neon-lit party in slow motion than the brash and colourful imagery of normal. Together they act like two-halves of one whole, balancing each other out in a manner that was too often missed on Sremmlife.
There may be no conscious effort to avoid the typical tropes of the genre, yet Sremmlife 2 finds the duo expanding their sound beyond the fruity, borderline bubblegummy trap of past. Of course there’s the token Started From the Bottom-esque reflection track (Came A Long Way), and the hedonistic (to the point of nihilistic) lyrics focusing on all the staples
-- bitches, money, drinks, and drugs -- but where so many fail, the duo succeed. Came A Long Way features a beat cold enough to match the slightly more introspective tone, and the otherwise omnipresent ignorance is balanced by enough tongue-in-cheek self-awareness that it doesn’t give cause to cringe. In many ways, it’s a token to how far they’ve come that everything falls into place so effortlessly. The features are well chosen and even better placed, the curveballs -- such as the synthpop-reminiscent Just Like Us, driven by an uber-melodic Swae Lee showing off new found vocal range -- don’t miss, and many of the ailments that afflicted the debut are all but gone. Okay, they haven’t quite done away with the total misses (Over Here the glaring example), but they’re few and far between rather than predictably common. It’s no masterpiece, but in what Sremmlife 2 aims to achieve, it accomplishes (quite resoundingly even). For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, you have a soundtrack to send out the summer, and for those of us down south where it’s still cold, don’t worry (drink up), spring’s right around the corner, and we already have a soundtrack for the summer to come.