American rapper and singer/songwriter Swae Lee first found success as part of the Southern sibling hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd. He was born Khalif Malikibnsham Brown in Inglewood, California, but his family relocated to Tupelo, Mississippi when he and his brother Slim Jxmmi (born Aaquil Ibinshaman Brown) were very young. The brothers were raised in the Ida Street housing projects, which were notorious for their high crime levels. Around this time 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 struck 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).
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. 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, 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 Jxmtroduction. ~ Bekki Bemrose & Neil Z. Yeung