You might remember XIII from the magnificent record No (The Relative Effect Of Explication), released three years ago on Gang of Ducks. Last year, the Turin-based artist performed under his given name (Alessio Capovilla) with Anna Homler (of Breadwoman fame). Now, he presents a new album for GOD, Eocity, which moves from the murky, wavering synths of No to a more crisp and technicolour palate. There are shades of deconstructed club and the fascinating call-centre work of Sam Kidel, all pulled together by XIII’s own watchful and expansive eye. On tracks like “╘Eowar”, a kind of paper blanket is ruffled while digital birds cough and splutter. Reticent voices hum and exhale, while synthetic keys and strings are plucked and arpeggiated in purposeful opposition. “The Boy” positively soars, led by a strange and evocative melody that seems to embody heartbreak. “Curve D’argento╯” is more hopeful, not unlike Lanark Artefax’s “Flickering Debris” with its wordless, sampled song. It rises to a brisk, strange crash, imagined noise representing nothing yet resembling some strange real-world workings. It’s already been said that this is a world away from No, but the transformation and development is fascinating.
This May, we’re four years on from the release of Rae Sremmurd’s “No Flex Zone” and when you take a moment to contemplate it, it’s hard to believe how much the party-starting duo have achieve in the timespan of one presidential term. In such an epoch we’ve seen the industry take legacies like Waka Flocka’s trap and Chief Keef’s drill from regional stylistics to the mainstream blueprint for hits in and out of rap. It’s been relentless for hip-hop listeners with Young Thug, Future and even Drake rising to the top to drop release after release; the rate at which we process information and consume culture almost demands a level of saturation that diminishes semantic differences between “album” and “mixtape”. So it’s amazing to consider that Rae Sremmurd have managed to remain the name on everyone’s lips without ever letting the quality drop. They’re known for their heavy-hitters in the charts, but their album cuts – which include “Unlock the Swag”, “Shake It Fast” and “Came A Long Way” – have consistently sized up well next to their singles. And in a time more concerned with playlists, they’ve really respected the album format; Few records have opening tracks as fitting and excellent as “Lit Like Bic” and “Start A Party”, or perfect notes to end on such as “Safe Sex Pay Checks” and “Do Yoga”.
A duo announcing the release of a triple album is perplexing enough as it is, nevermind the contextual backdrop of an industry moving away from the format and of other rap-groups like Migos struggling to make the transition. (Culture I and II really are quite bloated.) But SR3MM – part-Swae Lee, part-Slim Jxmmi and part-Rae Sremmurd – is the real deal. By and large, everything in the package justifies its presence there and operates in a beautifully balanced harmony. Take “Guatemala” on Swaecation, which features the artist elaborating on the talent that went into “Unforgettable”. When Slim enters, it actually feels like a guest verse, the type Ty Dolla $ign is wont to drop by and deliver. Crooning Swae Lee gets plenty of space to stretch his lungs, from the wistful confessional “Heat of the Moment” to “Lost Angels”, which puts a sun-kissed spin on the Weeknd’s style. It’s a chapter that suggests Swae Lee could well be in that echelon of R&B if he ever wanted to be.
Jxmtro, meanwhile, wastes no time in establishing its protagonist as someone who can carry his own weight. As the crunch of the first track exits the stage to make room for “Players Club”’s eerily janky piano, it becomes immediately clear we’re in Slim Jxmmi’s world of debauchery now. Attitude emanates from his flows on “Cap” and “Juggling Biddies”, which simultaneously give a nod to the influence of Gucci Mane and prove Slim as one of the most fun hip-hop artists to rap along to. Jxmtro’s guest features aren’t as poignant as Thugger’s appearance on Swaecation, though the moment Zoë Kravitz steps on the scene and you realise she’s got bars more than makes up for Pharrell’s Mickey Mouse sabotage of “Chanel”. Then there’s the Rae Srem joint, SR3MM itself. It opens with the addictive “Up In My Cocina” and the chemistry never lets up from there. The connect with Travi$ Scott is a sublime fit and the duo’s second collaboration with Juicy J, “Powerglide”, is an easy shoe-in for song of the summer as Swae Lee delivers the world’s first superhook. And that ain’t even the half of it. All in all, these three take us to five Rae Sremmurd albums of pure fire – so here’s to four more years at least.
Words by Aidan Hanratty and Tayyab Amin.