Swae Lee

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American rapper and singer/songwriter Swae Lee first found success as part of the Southern sibling hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd. At the height of the pair’s mainstream success — 2016′s chart-topper “Black Beatles” — he branched out as a solo artist, issuing his de facto solo debut, Swaecation, as part of the pair’s third set, 2018′s SR3MM. He maintained a strong chart presence with a series of collaborations with French Montana (“Unforgettable”), Travis Scott (“Sicko Mode”), Post Malone (the Grammy-nominated “Sunflower”), Ellie Goulding and Diplo (“Close to Me”), and Alicia Keys (“LALA [Unlocked]“).
He was born Khalif Malik Ibn Shaman Brown in Whittier, California, but his family relocated to Tupelo, Mississippi when he and his brother Slim Jxmmi (born Aaquil Iben Shamon Brown) were very young. They were raised in the Ida Street housing projects, which were notorious for their high crime levels. Not long after the move, the brothers’ parents split up, which eventually led to them seeking shelter in abandoned homes in the area. Music proved to be a useful escape for the boys, and they found a role model in rapper David Banner, who also hailed from Mississippi. They began their path in music by forming Dem Outta St8 Boyz with Jemiah Middlebrooks. Eventually, the brothers headed out on their own, and had local success with the single “Party Animal.” In 2013 the duo signed to the EarDrummers Entertainment label as Rae Sremmurd, which was the label name spelled backwards. They went on to release two studio records, SremmLife (2015) and SremmLife 2 (2016), topping the Hot 100 with the multi-platinum hit “Black Beatles” with Gucci Mane.
As a solo artist, Lee made his debut on Mike WiLL Made-It’s “Drinks on Us,” followed by appearances on Wiz Khalifa’s “Burn Slow” and French Montana’s “Unforgettable.” The latter track peaked in the Top Three of the Billboard 200, also topping the U.S. R&B/hip-hop and rap charts while going multi-platinum across the globe. In early 2018, Lee appeared on the soundtrack for Black Panther alongside R&B singer Khalid, followed a couple months later by “Hurt to Look,” the first single from his debut solo effort, which arrived as one of three albums bundled into Rae Sremmurd’s third effort, SR3MM. In addition to one disc of Rae Sremmurd material, it was also home to the solo debuts from each of the brothers: Lee’s Swaecation and Jxmmi’s Jxmtro. The set debuted at number six on the Billboard 200. Also in 2018, he hopped onto tracks with Camila Cabello (“Real Friends”), Ellie Goulding (“Close to Me”), and Travis Scott (“Sicko Mode”), but it was a duet with Post Malone that pushed Lee to the fore of the mainstream for much of 2019. “Sunflower,” from the soundtrack to the animated box office hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, was a radio smash, topping the Hot 100 and notching one of the longest Top Ten streaks in chart history. At the end of the year, the track received Grammy Award nominations for both Record of the Year and Best Pop/Duo Performance. That same year, Lee collaborated with Madonna on the song “Crave” from her Madame X album.
He returned to his own work with the 2020 singles “Someone Said” and “Reality Check.” The following year, he teamed up with Skrillex and Siiickbrain for “Too Bizarre” and Pink Sweat$ for “Forever Never.” He also worked with Alicia Keys and Jhene Aiko. ~ Bekki Bemrose & Neil Z. Yeung