A triple LP always says something. If you’re George Harrison, whose 23-track debut All Things Must Pass set a gold standard for Beatles solo records, it says, “Those fuckers should’ve let me write more.” If you’re The Clash, whose 1980 triple-set Sandinista! came just a year after its breakout double-LP London Calling, it says, “We can do anything.” Sprawl is part of the point, more often than not. The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs took a gimmick to its breaking point, conjuring up a new love song for every genre Stephin Merritt could think of. More recently, perhaps as a response to our post-format listening habits, a slate of triple albums has seemed delightfully iconoclastic in their sprawl, like Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me, The Knife’s punishing Shaking The Habitual, or Swans’ series of even-more-punishing post-millennial gauntlets.
But few of these have felt quite so essentially tripartite in their conception as Rae Sremmurd’s third record, SR3MM, which features a new disc from the duo alongside each member’s solo debut. It is the only triple album ever released that is also defined by its concision. Each nine-track, 30-or-so-minute disc supports the other—three jagged, taut rap records together cohesively documenting another day in the SremmLife, circa 2018. The duo’s first two records—2015’s SremmLife and 2016’s SremmLife 2—were mean little midnight missives, much better than anyone anticipated; barely drinking age, the real-life brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi had an easy charisma, with Swae descending into echo-laden abysses of melancholy melodies and Jxmmi coolly documenting the scenery along the way. There’s always been a bit of OutKast to them—Swae as Andre, musical and poppy, and Jxmmi as Big Boi, the straight-rap technician—which the format of the new record does little to dissipate. Swae’s solo disc, Swaecation, is a breezy synth-pop tale of heartache in paradise, full of lonely late-night boat rides and texts left unread, and Jxmmi’s Jxmtroduction is—well, one track is called “Players Club” and the exact next track is called “Anti-Social Smokers Club.” “Juggling Biddies” is about exactly what you think it is.
But where SpeakerBoxx and The Love Below found two artists too far apart to collaborate anymore, SR3MM is a testament to the world Rae Sremmurd has created across its first three records. (Or is it five?) Cohesive, front-to-back oversight from Mike Will Made It, one of the most inventive and consistent hip-hop producers of this decade, certainly helps; here he crafts an ecosystem of ’80s horror-flick synths (“Perplexing Pegasus”), Michael Mann moodiness (“Hurt To Look”), and blunt-burning guitar curlicues (“Changed Up”). The record’s mind-boggling eight pre-release singles all slot in neatly here, with the head-turning neon blur of “Powerglide” turning into a collaborative climax and the maundering, money-blowing nihilism of “Chanel” helping to solidify Jxmtro’s mood.
Swae and Jxmmi hold all this together with their codified brand of preening, decadent flossing. It’s all cars, clothes, and women, sunset to sunrise. There’s always been a sense of malice to their music; they fit in all the druggy debauchery of The Weeknd’s early EPs without ever succumbing to his self-loathing, as if a lifestyle of endless consumption and indulgence were perfectly normal and sustainable. “Buckets,” with Future, somehow collapses basketball metaphors with promethazine consumption; Jxmmi’s plea “Don’t let me get lost inside of this cup” scans almost threateningly here. Even one of Swae’s more tender love songs, “Red Wine,” is actually about being too fucked up to drink red wine. There’s an exuberance to all this depravity that recalls the very ’70s excess that initially made triple LPs a necessity—something Rae Sremmurd, with its repeated references to corny classic rock on tracks like “Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame,” seems keenly aware of. “Party so hard, I’m immune to hangovers,” Swae raps on that track, with the invulnerability of someone who’s never suffered a three-day hangover. Let’s see how they’re feeling when SremmLife 10 rolls around.
Regardless, it’s a bold record from a duo who have seemed preternaturally aware of their own asshole-ish appeal from the jump. (They sounded like they were actively stuffing you in your locker at points on SremmLife.) To know your lane and drive it perfectly—as they did on their masterpiece, “Black Beatles”—is one thing, but to blow that narrow vision out into a triple-disc set is another entirely. Pretty much all of the great triple albums—and many of the best double albums, at that—traffic in skyscraping ambition, weird ephemera and experiments, a notion that everything deserves to make the cut. In an era when streaming music demands excessive track lists, SR3MM delivers quantity and quality by zeroing in on its creators’ charisma, clarifying the appeal that’s been there the whole time. In the strange pantheon of triple LPs, there’s nothing else like it.