'Real rap, no mumbles': Migos on 'Culture II'
Since forming in Georgia back in 2009, hip-hop/rap trio Migos have enjoyed increasing levels of success as they climb to the upper echelons of the music industry. After the release of their single “Versace” in 2013, and subsequently “Fight Night” (2014), members Quavo, Offset and Takeoff have established themselves as a rap powerhouse, tactfully navigating trap and mainstream hip-hop and welding the two into one cohesive genre.
Their signature staccato flow and affinity for ad-libs has been widely mimicked by newcomers to the industry and old artists struggling to retain their relevance. Even the Billboard Hot 100’s mainstay and Canadian champion Drake has attempted to replicate the style on tracks such as the Metro Boomin’, Offset-featured “No Complaints.” The resulting reviews were somewhat mixed.
It’s best, then, to listen to the masters and not their imitators. On “Culture II,” released this past Friday, Jan. 26, Migos aptly demonstrates why they are at the very top of their class. While not necessarily known for their lyrical density, their beats continue to be positively infectious, with thunderous baselines aimed at completely obliterating your subwoofer.
The album is rife with features, as is to be expected from a group with a history of collaboration. 21 Savage, Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj, among others, lend their talents to the one hour and 45 minute project, released jointly by Quality Control Music, Motown Records and Capitol Records. Recent Grammy nominee Cardi B also puts in an appearance on the contagious “Motorsport,” discussing her prolific relationship with a member of the group itself, Offset. Yet it is the tracks without features that prove the most exciting on the album.
Often times it is easy as a consumer to get lost in the star power of assisted tracks on rap projects. As the charts tend to indicate, listeners gravitate towards songs that feature other artists. This ploy often works successfully, as Migos found with their inescapable club/celebrating-the-merits-of-your-significant-other track “Bad and Boujee,” featuring Lil Uzi Vert. Yet with three members, and three rappers in particular, Migos sounds best when they are on their own.
With R&B or pop groups, it is easier to blend voices and relegate some to background vocals. The rap industry does not afford such luxuries. In a genre of music where braggadocios behavior and peacocking is a staple, to maintain legitimacy one has to constantly have their voice heard, lest they face naysayers (see: any Takeoff interview where he insists he was on “Bad and Boujee”).
As such the most exciting entry by far is the third track, “Narcos,” a Latin-flavored dive into the curious world of drug running and immense wealth. “This real rap, no mumbles” chime Quavo and Offset on the chorus, shading the subgenre that so outraged Joe Budden in his now-infamous interview with Lil Yachty. Their statement rings true. While ‘real rap’ is a somewhat difficult concept to pin down, it would appear that many largely believe Migos to be it. Set to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, it would seem the group has their latest success largely in the bag.