Migos ‘beg and plead’ on ‘Culture II’ to little avail
Danny Liggio | Thursday, February 1, 2018
It’s been a year since Migos defined themselves as trap in the mainstream with the release of their impeccable album, “Culture.” Since then, they’ve spent time at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and obtained renown outside of the realm of hip hop. Now, at the beginning of 2018, they are no longer vying for a spot at the top, but rather governing their kingdom, hoping to shape it as best as possible. If “Culture” was their Declaration of Independence, then “Culture II” is their attempt at a Constitution. But, as is the case with all revolutionaries, obtaining power is easy, but ruling is hard. With the knowledge of the challenge before him, Quavo begins aptly: “Higher we go, beg and plead for the culture.”
At 24 songs, one hour and 45 minutes long, “Culture II” is more odyssey than an album, and, if you listen to the whole thing, you get the highly sought-after knowledge concerning which songs hit and which are best left unsaved (in favor of a few extra megabytes for pictures). In this regard, “Culture II” resembles Future’s releases from last year, “Future” and “Hndrxx.” Migos throw all they have into the wild to see what takes root.
Nearly all songs on the album follow some form of a verse–chorus–verse structure. By the midpoint of the album, any variation within the generally homogenous track list is appreciated. All artist features are landmarks in this bland stretch of music, with 21 Savage, Gucci Mane and Post Malone coming in particularly strong. At the center of this salvo of sameness, the incredibly idiosyncratic bridge of “Too Much Jewelry” excites, and what would be a mediocre single in “Gang Gang” stands out among the rest of the album.
“Gang Gang” also features a general change in tempo for Takeoff, who sings without his usual heavy bleat. Overall, Takeoff really steps up to plate on “Culture II,” taking the lead on many songs to rise from his usual ad-lib only features circa “Bad and Boujee.” Although Takeoff consistently commands the mic, Offset spits the definitive best verse with his rhythmic wordplay and almost hilarious imagery on “BBO.” For just a few lines, the drums cut out, and he carries the song as if there was never a need for a beat in the history of hip hop. Quavo, throughout, is Quavo — autotune, hooks and ice.
As the journey sludges on after the heavy, growling and satisfying “Flooded,” the length of the album finally becomes completely overbearing. A low point is “Open it Up,” a variation on “Deadz” from “Culture.” It’s boring to hear “uh, ooo” a second year in a row — an unnecessary rehash this incredibly lengthy musical endeavor did not need.
DJ Durel, a frequent Migos collaborator, ATL’s own Zaytoven, Kanye West and Metro Boomin create palatable beats throughout. Buddha Bless plays with horns on “BBO,” a worthy follow up to the flutes of Future’s “Mask Off” and Playboi Carti’s hit “Magnolia,” which defined hip hop in 2017. Pharrell’s 8-bit beat on “Stir Fry” is decidedly un-Migos, but it shows their versatility in the form of another crowd pleaser. Quavo tries his hand at production on “Auto Pilot,” clearly the work of someone without technical experience making a beat. Despite its initial appearance, the mysterious, intriguing and barely audible hollering hidden within the beat on “Auto Pilot” continues to resonate in my head.
“Culture II” is an album for playlists. Whereas listening to “Culture” involved culling the songs which were not quite as good as the rest, listening to “Culture II” is more like picking gold nuggets from dirt. Overall, the value of these golden songs is quite high, but not worth the effort of listening to the whole album. Lucky for you, fortunate reader, I’ve done the work for you. Listen to “BBO,” “Emoji A Chain,” “CC,” “Stir Fry,” “Too Much Jewelry,” “Flooded,” “Notice Me” and “Top Down On Da NAWF.” Send the rest of the songs to the streaming graveyard, forgotten along with most of Migos’ work prior to “Culture.”
Album: Culture II
Label: Capitol Records
Favorite Track: “BBO”
If You Like: 21 Savage, Young Thug, Gucci Mane
3 out of 5 Shamrocks