Quality Control’s ‘Control the Streets, Vol. 1′ Album Showcases an Empire in the Making
When Quality Control bosses Coach K and Pee Thomas founded their label in 2013, the music moguls took a big gamble on Migos, the Atlanta trap trio that many were ready to write off as word-repeaters who would overstay their welcome. But Quavo, Offset and Takeoff have persisted, not only proving their knack for hit making over nearly half of a decade (from 2013’s “Versace" to this year’s “MotorSport”), but also becoming cultural trail blazers in their own right—just listen to half of hip-hop imitate their triplet rhyme clusters. So they were the perfect foundation around which to build a growing franchise (also featuring Lil Yachty) that is on full display for Control the Streets, Vol. 1, a compilation project that is too long, but is still often effective.
The album plays like a greatest hits project for the streaming age (30 tracks), but it’s nearly all original, full of hi-hats, swaggy raps and just enough deviation from the modern Atlanta trap lane. Migos is still very much QC’s flagship act—the artists appear on 22 songs in various configurations—but the compilation bolsters their talents with guest appearances by a who’s who of rap: Nicki Minaj, Gucci Mane, Young Thug, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign.
While Migos are known to move as a unit, the members split off into collaborations with other artists here with enjoyable results. Takeoff and Tee Grizzley link for “We the Ones,” a track that's addictive enough to break out Takeoff on his own star journey (“Hashtag, man down!”). Offset and Cardi B’s “Um Yea” makes a good case for hip-hop’s new favorite couple to put out a joint album. And Quavo’s solo cut “South Africa” is beautiful, featuring an unexpectedly jazzy saxophone beat from longtime Migos producer DJ Durel.
Lil Yachty, who appears on eight tracks, also makes his presence felt. His loopy bubblegum style goes down best on “Movin’ Up,” a track that somehow sounds both heartfelt and heartless: “She belongs with me/She deserve everything she wants and needs/She wants Lil Boat to get down on one knee/But I'm too young, most hated they should call Lil Boat Nick Young,” he rhymes. Yachty shows another of his chambers alongside Offset on the Digital Nas-produced “Interlude.” It’s a dirtier sound than the big tracks on the album (“Ice Tray,” “My Dawg”), and Digital Nas’ sound is actually bigger than the message. But there’s something strange and cool about the way Yachty anti-flows: “I dropped a hundred on that all-white Maybach, they said that it’s ready/And that the inside seats is red like spaghetti.”
The newest QC act to get a big push is Lil Baby, who sounds slick and bluesy on the ballad “Sides,” auto-tune rapping about his mob ties and $2 million deal. He stands out when he interacts with the melodic aspects of “My Dawg” off of his Harder Than Hard tape—it’s probably why QC included a beefy remix to the song featuring Kodak Black, Gucci and Moneybagg Yo. It kicks a lot of ass. “I’m on my way, I’m going fast, I’m coming home to getcha,” Lil Baby rhymes.
Still, the track for which Control the Streets, Vol. 1 will be most remembered is Migos and Lil Yachty’s “Ice Tray,” which sniped at Joe Budden just as the rapper was on his way out as a personality on Complex’s daily hip-hop debate show Everyday Struggle. Of course, it stems from a heated interview with Yachty on the show back in May, which led to endless memes and a nearly violent run-in between Budden and Migos at the BET Awards one month later. While some might see the “Ice Tray” video—which features lookalike actors parodying Budden, DJ Akademiks, and journalist/intermediary Nadeska Alexis—as Migos beating a dead storyline into the ground, it’s their story and it makes sense why they’d want the last word.
The same could be said for this album: Quality Control’s emphatic statement borders on overkill but the gesture is theirs to make. The label seems to be diversifying its bonds—its all-female rap crew City Girls gets a go on the Khia-sampling “Fuck Dat Nigga”—which is refreshing. And during a time when it seems like they’re making all of the shots they take, why not go all the way in? —Andrew Matson
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