RAE SREMMURD, Shepherd’s Bush Empire – Evening Standard, 18 Jan 2017

It must be nerve-wracking wanting your show to go with a bang when your biggest song is famous for making people stand very still. Autumn 2016’s viral version of musical statues was the Mannequin Challenge, usually soundtracked by Rae Sremmurd’s spooky single Black Beatles. Hillary Clinton’s team, Ellen DeGeneres, the New York Giants and countless others joined the static video craze, and Mississippi brothers Khalif “Swae Lee” and Aaquil “Slim Jxmmi” Brown scored a US number one.

It probably wasn’t nerves that made the duo so late onto the stage that their DJ left his laptop to it and booing began. More likely they were enjoying backstage festivities with Section Boyz, the heavily populated London grime collective who jostled on halfway through to perform two of their own songs.

The Brown siblings seem like they like a party – hastily removing their shirts, rarely having both feet on the ground at once and at one point, throwing a pineapple into the crowd. Swae Lee, with his carpet of tattoos and spidery dip-dyed dreads, was a charismatic stage presence. Slim Jxmmy was better at jumping off things.

Big screen visuals featuring a mix of bright cartoons and pole dancing strippers demonstrated their enthusiasms. That’s what makes them such an odd fit for the woozy, psychedelic work of their producer Mike Williams, who trades as Mike Will Made It. The lava lamp electronics of songs such as Look Alive and Unlock the Swag were more interesting than the swaggering voices on top.

They did the mannequin thing to close, but left out the other song that makes them the group of the moment: Up Like Trump, which was probably funnier when they released it in 2015 than it is on the eve of Donald’s inauguration. Moving forwards is wise if this childlike pair are to be more than this year’s Gangnam Style.

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