Black Beatles


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Adam R. Holz

Album Review

Sometimes success boils down to being in the right place at the right time. That truism definitely applies to Mississippi brothers Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown and Aaquil “Slim Jxmmi” Brown, the hip-hop duo known collectively as Rae Sremmurd.

The band’s not-so-humbly titled hit “Black Beatles” had been climbing the charts since its September release. Then the Mannequin Challenge happened, and the song became a full-fledged phenomenon.

When Mannequins Attack … the Charts

If you haven’t heard, the latest viral internet craze features people in frozen, mannequin-like poses while their friends record them. It began at high school in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 26, 2016, then practically broke the internet as celebs started uploading their own Mannequin Challenge videos.

Fortuitously for Rae Sremmurd, many of those videos featured “Black Beatles” as background music—including one from a real Beatle, Paul McCartney. Adele and the former members of Destiny’s Child also appropriated the low-key song as their own private Mannequin Challenge soundtrack. And it never hurts to have Sir Paul, Adele and Beyoncé promoting you.

That viral boost shoved “Black Beatles” online popularity into hyperdrive, with more than 60 million people viewing the video and propelling it to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.

The Good Life, Hip-Hop Style

The song features rapper Gucci Mane joining the brothers Brown in a shout-out to the good life, hip-hop style.

The guys have money to spare: “Black Beatles in the city be back immediately to confiscate the moneys/ … Quick release the cash, watch it fall slowly.”

Fawning groupies abound: “Came in with two girls, look like strippers in their real clothes/A broke hoe can only point me to a rich hoe.”

Drugs and alcohol flow freely: “Smoke in the air, binge drinking/ … Getting so gone I’m not blinking,” Swae Lee says. “Pint of lean, pound of weed and a kilo,” Gucci Mane brags. Later, Slim Jxmmi adds, “She’s a good teaser, and we blowing reefer/ … I’ve been blowing OG Kush, I feel a little sedated.”

Harsh profanities turn up too, with a woman being labeled a “b–ch” and Slim Jxmmi dropping an f-bomb.

The video, meanwhile, features representations of the song’s subject matter, with the guys performing and living it up in a variety of locales—both on stage and at parties. There’s plenty of smoking and drinking, shirtless musicians and scantily clad female fans (including one whose otherwise bare breasts are covered only with tape).

Curiously, despite the visual presence of electric guitars, bass and drums throughout the video, none of those instruments are actually heard in this spare, synth-and-drum-loop drenched song. What we do get—in both the song and its bacchanalian video—is yet another snapshot of hip-hop hedonism, with this one’s top-of-the-charts popularity due to an unlikely assist from all those would-be mannequins out there.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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