Migos’ Evolution Is Undeniable on ‘Culture’
Migos reached rap stardom relatively quickly in their rap careers. Two years after their 2011 debut mixtape, Juug Season, they struck gold with the heavily acclaimed Yung Rich Niggas mixtape. Their song "Versace" from that tape got a co-sign and remix from Drake and soon became a hit. As a result, the triplet-style flow used on "Versace" was everywhere and adopted by everyone. Migos were rap trendsetters already before any of the members were even 23 years old.
Quavo, Offset and Takeoff have spent the past few years staying at the level of stardom, but never superstardom. Even after the "Migos flow" faded out a bit as a trend, they kept grinding. They had a couple of gold records with "Versace" and "Fight Night," but never had a single hit higher than No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100. Only one song had reached the top 15 of the Billboard Rap Songs chart. They continued releasing acclaimed mixtapes, but their debut album, Yung Rich Nation, in 2015, was a disappointment commercially, selling just 14,000 in its first week of release.
The group stayed relevant through those new mixtapes and countless guest features, which had them in the conversation even as Offset spent time in jail stemming from an April 2015 arrest in which the group was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, felony possession of a schedule II narcotic and carrying a loaded gun on school property.
The Atlanta trio finally ascended into superstardom with "Bad and Boujee," the first single off their sophomore album, Culture. The track was released in late October of last year, but didn't hit big until late December and going into January 2017. Then, with a little help from Twitter memes and a shout-out from Donald Glover during the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
However, "Bad and Boujee" would have been a hit even without the memes and the Glover speech. The song is a triumph. The reason it reached meme status in the first place is because it's unique. Everything about the Metro Boomin and G. Koop-produced song plants itself in your head -- the irresistible hook, the constant ad-libs peppered throughout the verses, the ridiculous boasts, Offset's "woo, woo, woo, woo!" and even guest Lil Uzi Vert's divisive verse. It's perhaps the ultimate Migos song.
Yet Culture has much more to offer than just "Bad and Boujee." "T-Shirt" features all three members bouncing off each other, dropping lines about dealing dope and rap success, all over a fantastic, hazy beat from XL and Nard & B. Quavo calls out everyone who's copied Migos style in the past: "Do it for the culture/They gon' bite like vultures."
The project features more than its fair share of memorable lines. Migos' unique way of bragging about themselves is one of their best traits. Quavo is one of the only rappers that can pull off a line like "Still be playin' with pots and pans, call me Quavo Ratatouille" on "Bad and Boujee." On "Deadz," he boasts his money is "long like anacondas." On the opening track "Culture," Takeoff says he "Fucked the bitch and broke her back/I fucked the bitch and gave her back."
The album isn't all hard-hitting bangers. The second half of the album slows down significantly. "What the Price," "Out Yo Way" and the Travis Scott-assisted "Kelly Price" all use Migos' more melodic gifts to create more ballad-esque songs. Of course, in true Migos fashion, their slower, more sing-song style can be for setting drug prices just as it can be for appreciating the women in their lives.
The guests on Culture are few, and none of them overstay their welcomes. Lil Uzi Vert on "Bad and Boujee" is the only time a guest feature really gets an extended verse on the album. DJ Khaled is just there on "Culture" to do his usual shit-talking on the intro. Gucci Mane on "Slippery" and Scott on "Kelly Price" are gone almost as quickly as they show up.
The best guest turn on the album comes from an inspired 2 Chainz on "Deadz." Even though his feature is also very short, he makes the most of it and showcases fantastic chemistry with Migos. He drops bars like "Gang bang slang 'caine/Heroin, half a ton, Purple Haze, Cam'ron" and "Might buy a bowling alley, I got money out the gutter." 2 Chainz has so much charisma that he barely needs to say anything else to make a lasting impression.
The beats, provided by the likes of Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, Cardo, Murda Beatz, Purps, Cassius Jay, OZ and more, often give a sinister-sounding trap backdrop with horror movie synths and minimalistic drum sounds. These beats balance out the cool and confident swagger of the trio's braggadocio.
Culture is a tour de force of all that makes Migos great while showcasing all of the group's strengths -- the gift for catchy hooks and melodies, unique flows, incredible group chemistry and phenomenal one-liners. After over a dozen releases since 2011, Migos have ascended higher than ever before on Culture. They're not looking back down any time soon.