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, maintaining a strong chart presence with a series of deft collaborations with French Montana ("Unforgettable"), Travis Scott ("Sicko Mode"), and Post Malone ("Sunflower").
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 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. That year, he also 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 10 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. ~ Bekki Bemrose & Neil Z. Yeung
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