Migos take culture to a new level
Jimmy Kemper | Monday, February 6, 2017
How do you know when you’ve made it?
This question holds a definite level of significance for Migos, a rap group that now finds itself at the center of a spotlight between Donald Glover’s assertion at the Golden Globes that they are “the Beatles of our generation” and the meteoric rise of hit single “Bad and Boujee” to the top of charts.
Migos’ first flirtation with this level of mainstream attention began back in 2013, when “Versace,” featuring Quavo’s trademark triplet flow (“Ver-sa-ce Ver-sa-ce”), oozed into the depths of hip-hop’s collective consciousness. Within a year, rappers as big as that vampire Drake were borrowing this flow to great success. This didn’t stop the Migos from their grind, because in 2015 they transformed the dab into a meme, giving desperate baby boomer politicians another opportunity to try to woo millennials. In 2016, Quavo features in approximately 1 million tracks, rumors circulate of Migos landing on Kanye’s GOOD Music label and “Bad and Boujee” starts to catch on.
With this much momentum behind them, 2017 is the perfect time for Quavo, Offset and Takeoff to drop their second studio album “Culture.”
“Culture” is steeped in the tradition of Atlanta trap music. This is obvious from the moment you look at the cover art: a collage of peaches, I-85 highway signs and the other golden dome. It’s about more than just the pretty picture on front, as “Culture” lovingly embraces the works of Outkast, Gucci Mane, Lil Jon and every other artist whose works have graced the speakers of Magic City. Migos even go so far as to invite 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane to share in this moment, boosting their credibility and infusing their legacy with some much-needed rockstar status.
What’s so fantastic about “Culture” is that Migos are unwilling to compromise with the current pop music scene. Rather, they stay in their lane – showing off the pop sensibilities that they have developed over the years through the mixtapes – and invite the pop world along for a ride in their drop top.
Like any good trap album, “Culture” centers itself around its hits. Of course, before we can get to those hits, Migos set the foundation and lay out their ambition. Quavo and crew take the bold step of placing the introduction to the album into the hands of DJ Khaled, the Snapchat memelord of yesteryear, now relegated to spewing his catchphrases on TurboTax commercials. It’s a risky move, but it pays off: Khaled, with his swaggering, booming bravado, effectively hands the keys of internet virality off to Migos, who pop them in the ignition of the aforementioned drop top and speeds on down to the trap on the very next track “T-Shirt.”
Much like the excellent, “Revenant”-themed music video, the song “T-Shirt” epitomizes all that is great about the Migos. At its core, “Culture,” especially on “T-Shirt,” focuses on guns, girls and gangbanging: the holy trinity of trap, and a perfect recipe for some genuinely fun tracks. Here, an overload of Auto-Tune blurs Quavo’s sharp staccato as he raps over hazy beats by Atlanta producers Nard & B to make an easily recognizable, infectious tune that’s just as playable in the club as it is on pop radio.
Obviously, “Bad and Boujee” maintains its position as the keystone of this album. The bizarre opening by Offset is still as addicting, and the rapping from the rest of the Migos and Lil Uzi Vert is just as virtuosic as when the song was a meme in the depths of Twitter back in October.
After the killer double-double combo of “T-Shirt,” “Call Casting,” “Bad and Boujee” and “Get Right Witcha,” it’s totally reasonable to assume that that Migos don’t have room for anything else of substance on “Culture.” But, as they make abundantly clear, Quavo and the gang are doing this for the culture, and the latter half of the album shows no sign of letting down. While there are no clearly discernible breakout hits there, this side of the record continues to keep listeners in the groove. To be fair, at times it’s pretty easy to slip too comfortably into that groove and zone out here due to Migos’ wholesale embrace of their lane. However, to dismiss these tracks so easily means missing out on some tight production by Gucci-affiliate and Atlanta superstar in his own right, Zaytoven, on the atmospheric, piano-laden “Big On Big” and the sparse, moody “Brown Paper Bag,” among other songs that would be considered major hits for any other trap star.
“Culture” is one of those albums that not only challenges our understanding of Migos’ place in the pop canon, but of trap music in general. Trap is one of those subgenres of rap that’s frequently dismissed as simple party music for the mixtape crowd. The rise of “Bad and Boujee” and the continued success of Migos proves otherwise. While Migos may not yet be “the Beatles of our generation” as Donald Glover suggests, “Culture” and the group’s work ethic that led to this moment show that Migos are without a doubt the ambassador of the Atlanta music scene to the greater music community.
So yes, they have made it.
Label: 300 Entertainment
If You Like: Future, Gucci Mane, Young Thug
Recommended Tracks:“Bad and Boujee,” “T-Shirt,” “Get Right Witcha”