The first song I remember hearing from Migos was a record that used Miley Cyrus as a euphemism for their cocaine dealing. It wasn’t lyrically daring or groundbreaking, no different than Jeezy comparing his white girl to Christina Aguilera, but there was a quality to the rhyming that I couldn’t simply dismiss.
Quavo and Takeoff displayed the style that would eventually become synonymous with the Marietta, Georgia trio—repetitive hooks delivered with the energy of the Energizer bunny, pop culture-filled verses delivered in a double time, sugar-rushed flow, mixing hilarious ad libs with Atlanta-centric lingo—unapologetically Southern, undeniably infectious.
I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it—the kind of indifference that comes with the uncertainty of whether something is genius or annoying. Their future in rap was one I couldn’t foresee, like a lot of artists it’s impossible to know if a moderate hit will evolve into a long career or a temporary jam. But they had something, a spark, and all you need is a little flame to start a forest fire.
When Drake saw a wave forming he once again reprised his role as Johnny Tsunami and dove into “Versace,” using their style and borrowing it the way Rogue from X-Men is able to take other mutants' abilities. The single was a hit. Radio took them worldwide, putting Migos in the spotlight to be the next big act from Atlanta.
In the years following "Versace," Migos have seen tremendous highs and unfortunate lows. They would have moderate hits on Billboard and spend nights in jail, show guns to Noisey and encourage the world to dab, have their sauce stolen but always find a way to reclaim what they started.
Quavo, Offset and Takeoff just had a way of never falling into the abyss of the temporary. You couldn’t say they were one-hit wonders, each passing year they gradually got a little bigger, and then “Bad and Boujee” happened, finally bringing them to the peak of the Billboard charts.
Together, Migos remind me of watching old AND1 streetball mixtapes—flashy moves, outrageous style, and complete fun. The Migos are fun. Quavo is unquestionably a star, but he’s perfectly complimented by his brethren.
Going into Culture, I’m looking for an album that is not only fun but one that celebrates the fact that Migos have survived these last four summers. They beat all the one-hit wonder presumptions, they overcame all those that claimed it couldn’t be done without Drake, they beat the law, and their influence in this trap era is undeniable. Without question they have impacted rap culture, making the album title fitting during this peak era of trap music.
The world is watching them closely. Ever since reaching No. 1 and having a well-timed shout-out by Donald Glover, Migos are bigger than they've ever been, and a strong album will bring them closer to being bigger than The Beatles.
1 Listen rules apply: no stopping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding—a straightforward listen while documenting my gut reactions to the music. MIGOS!!!
1. "Culture" ft. DJ Khaled
The album is starting with rap’s greatest motivational speaker. Did Khaled replace Diddy as the inaugural album shit-talker? He will never replace Puffy. I can’t believe he's the second coming off Snapchat phrases. 808 Mafia with the first banger. Takeoff with the open lines, hilarious that he said “Culture album coming soon” on the album intro. Quavo was made for the trap era. I would pay him to ad lib my ordinary conversations. It’s hard not to get lost in the background vocals, it’s like a ghost swag surfing in the background. No hook, the Migos are like Olympic sprinters passing the baton. You can almost take any coupling of bars and make a hook. The Migos might be some of the best trick rappers in hip-hop right now. 808 Mafia will be remembered for gifting artists with bangers for at least the last five years. By the end of this year "culture" is a word that might end up on my blacklist, but I have to respect the fact Migos really did contribute something to rap’s trap era. Cool intro.
So glad Nard & B are still producing bangers. I remember when they were doing all the joints for Grand Hustle. The homage to Shawty Lo’s “I’m Da Man” verse is beautiful. “17.5 same color T-shirt." Hopefully the royalty check will help his family out. Quavo could easily be the Trap Era T-Pain if he gave out more hooks. They need to take all the Migo gun sounds for the next rendition of Grand Theft Auto. Takeoff with the Country Grammar reference. I like the group over these slow burners, smooth beats with strong kicks is where they just float. I can’t hear 17.5 without really thinking about how Jeezy was out here promoting his coke prices on rap records—that’s a real business, man. Talk about marketing. Quavo has the voice of two angels sipping lean and singing into a rotating fan. If you don’t see the beauty in that reference you’re a hater. The cooing in the background is pure angel dust. I kind of love how Offset channeled Travis Scott’s Auto-Tune flow. Trav pretty much owed them for all the time he’s swagger jacked. Trading sounds like trading video games at Gamestop. When the summer hits this one is going to be everywhere, it has all the ingredients of a Migos hit.
3. "Call Casting"
I love those dope boy keys that are reminiscent of Zaytoven’s sound. It doesn’t have quite the same bounce, but you’ll hit a mean dab anyway. Takeoff just mentioned Zaxby’s, so make sure you get a Big Zax Snack on this glorious Friday. Rappers will turn anything into a metaphor for trapping. White girls, white boys, chickens, yams—almost anything. The bird sound that Quavo made would make Birdman salute. The fact Quavo was able to work Andy Milonakis into a rap is amazing. The organ chords on this record are holy. Offset has the strangest way to enter a song. It’s puzzling, but he’s good. A lot of stunting and flossing that will surely make you feel like you have more money in your bank account than what’s actually there. Do not play Migos and online shop, the overdraft fee will be there waiting for you when the song ends.
4. "Bad and Boujee" ft. Lil Uzi Vert
Young Metro and OG G-Koop laced this beat. It’s pretty hard to hear this song and not enjoy life. The Offset "Woof" needs to be inducted into some hall of fame. Greatest "Woof" of all time? I can’t think of anyone who's done it better. The bounce of this beat will have you in your seat feeling like you’re on a moonbounce. How Migos construct these hooks and verses is bizarre, no one thinks of rhyming drop top and rain drop without thinking it’s ridiculous. Quavo can rap! Been saying this for years. Quavo Ratatouille is better than any Yoh a.k.a. I’ve ever come up with and I’m okay with this. Presence, personality, flows and cadence, you will get a lot out of a Migos song if you’re listening. You’ll also get a lot of nonsense, so I understand those who can’t get into their music. There’s something about trapping by the Subway that just screams North Atlanta. *Insert Donald Glover Golden Globe dancing gif* For the longest time I didn’t know Lil Uzi Vert was on this song. He has the strangest rap delivery. But I do love how he asks himself questions and then answers them. That’s brilliant, right? Or self-centered. If rap doesn’t work out he has to lend his voice to an animated series. I’ll either hate this song in a month or play it for the rest of my life. Leaning toward the latter to be completely honest. A banger in it’s purest form.
5. "Get Right Witcha"
Keys and an interesting wind instrument, the claps just came in. Is that a flute? He’s playing the hell out of it. Drums are nice, Quavo has a robotic car so he’s obviously Will Smith in I, Robot. This one is a bit slower, not as dynamic as the previous records. The beat reminds me of 2 Chainz’ “Big Amount.” Doesn’t quite sound like a sample, maybe the same source material? This is what I’m wondering as Offset professes his love for cellulite and makes an awesome mention of Mike Tyson’s legendary bite. Mike Tyson was an excellent boxer, but he made one mistake and has been “the biter” ever since. Migos’ pop culture references will always be entertaining. You just never know what they will throw in. Quavo and Offset both mentioned God/Lord at the end of their verses. This song isn’t about redemption but it’s a pretty interesting detail. Wish they wouldn’t have let Takeoff say, “Cut like scissor." The flow switch-up was nice. The hook is strong, but this one didn't grab me for long.
6. "Slippery" ft. Gucci Mane
Praying this one doesn’t have a “Wet like water or ocean” line. Rappers treat Percs like Flintstone vitamins. A Crocodile Hunter reference is why Quavo’s name should be followed by the goat emoji. This beat is strange, it feels like something that would play when UFOs land in the hood. Can you imagine Ghost Hunters with Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka? The production would be their theme song. This is outer space trap music. Offset buys his girls fur and compares them to wildebeests and I can’t stop laughing. But this flow is colder than the ice they wear in a winter unaffected by global warming. Gucci Mane just appeared like I said "Burr" three times in the mirror. The more he raps the more he gets back into his old self. I feel like I’m back at the trap house. “I’m a murderer but I don’t promote violence,” Gucci Mane is for the kids like Wu-Tang. Issa role model. Takeoff really took off on this one. If I ever see spaceships in Bankhead this is what I’d play.
7. "Big On Big"
Zaytoven playing the most beautiful keys. We aren’t worthy. We really need to appreciate the fact he never took his talents to classical music because trap music would lose its elegance. He threw in some strings to really give it another layer of beauty. This is cinematic. Okay! Okay! I like this. How do you go big on big? Good question. This is a song about not keeping up with the Joneses because they have more than you. Takeoff talking that talk. Yep, this is an early favorite. It’s such an interesting sentiment. It’s like talking to haters, but the kind of haters who spend their time trying to outdo you. I can get behind stunt raps like this. Offset with the green Lambo, a Piccolo line followed by a Nickelodeon reference. He hit me with Toonami and Nick back to back. Just had a flashback of my whole childhood. Might need an entire album of Zaytoven keys and the Migos Dragonball Z reference. I would cry a thug tear. The refrain closing out to the keys is what the word beauty is meant to describe.
8. "What the Price"
Migos starting off with an electric guitar. I don’t know where this is going but it’s getting rather emotional. Definitely an unexpected chain of events. Quavo is singing with the soul of all his ancestors and I’m in my feelings. The tone of this production is still trap-driven but these keys are adding an element of instrumentation that’s giving it a far more emotional feeling. This sounds like a song that Travis Scott gave them. He actually sounds like he has vocals on here. I’m not sure, but it definitely has his influence. It makes sense that they channel Travis, he’s like the fourth Migo. I would love if he sat down and produced a short EP for them; I think he has a strong grasp on how to mix their sound up and still make it very Migo. All the skrts, Migos trading off, ad libs, electric guitar, and Travis-esque crooning in the background is great. This is a really good. Also shows how when Migos unite like three Wonder Twins the end result is like seeing a rainbow after a nasty storm. Very well constructed. May the Huey, Duey and Louie of rap forever stay together.
9. "Brown Paper Bag"
Zaytoven with another one! WOOOO! This beat is like the dolphins flipping out of the water at Sea World. This is that BOUNCE. The last joint didn’t have this energy, I wish it did. I hope 2 Chainz is on this. I can’t even get into what’s being rapped, this beat is what you play at outrageous volumes when the direct deposit hits. Yep, the Migos has to make this the next single. Rocky Balboa ad lib. How many rap songs have been dedicated to the brown paper bag? Quavo with the Forbes magazine stunt is the most un-humble brag of the year thus far. But if I was in Forbes at 23 I wouldn’t be humble either. There’s not enough tricks to make this the single, but it’s rather enjoyable. Some good bars, but the Zaytiggy production is ridiculous. The reason why he’s lasted this long is understanding how to make his beats really bounce.
10. "Deadz" ft. 2 Chainz
Heavy chords. Man, CARDO tag just dropped and now I’m excited like when I used to hear Mannie Fresh before beats dropped. The build up is like Batman is about to drop from the sky and drop-kick Bane. THE DROP DID NOT DISAPPOINT. Quavo pulling off the most simple hook right now and it already sounds like a hit. If he didn’t rap, I would be okay. WOOOOO CARDO GAVE THE MIGOS ONE HELL OF A BRICK. This song sounds like standing over your enemy after hitting them with a cinderblock. It doesn’t even sound like what you would expect Migos to rap over. Really this is some Phantom of the Opera kind of beat. 2 CHAINZ CAME IN WITH THE FLYING KICK FLOW. Feels like Liu Kang just kicked me in my chest. Cam’ron reference hard. That was sadly short, but the buying a bowling alley bar made me chuckle. The added drums on the Takeoff verse is popping. Rhyming Benjamin Franklin and Kurt Angle is my defense for Takeoff. You can’t tell me he’s not keeping up with Quavo and Offset.
11. "All Ass"
I love how Atlanta rappers have to give the strip clubs an anthem. This beat sounds like butt cheeks and Magic City hot wings. I feel like rappers from Atlanta are almost obligated to give the strippers a song, like most artists make songs for radio. I’m pretty sure I won’t play this one during my free time, but if I’m ever in Follies I will throw an article's worth of dollars to the ceiling. “I cut them like black spades” has to be quoted during Black History Month. I also love how dedicated Migos are to the trap. They can’t go one song without mentioning bricks or bandos. After defending Takeoff on the last song I don’t know if I can defend this verse, I’ll just let the young man rumble. Shoutout to all the strippers that will pay their tuition or take a trip to Hawaii thanks to this song. You earn it! This beat bangs, though...
12. "Kelly Price" ft. Travis Scott
Kelly Price finally gets her respect. You know once Migos name a song after you it’s pretty much straight to the hall of fame. The influence is so strong I’m not 100% if it’s Quavo or Travis Scott on this hook. Definitely Quavo but he’s channeling his inner Houston rockstar. This one is interesting. Quavo used watching Garfield as an insult, shout out to the lasagna-eating cat. I got love for you even if the Migos don’t. “She eat Molly like it’s rice” is probably dangerous and your night will probably end up like Vincent Vega’s date with Mia Wallace. Travis and Quavo are the best duo since Mike and Dustin from Stranger Things. Travis Scott wakes up with cocaine in his hair and assume its lice and there will be nothing funnier this entire life. I’m not a fan of Auto-Tune Takeoff. It doesn’t sound natural. Actually, on third listen, Quavo sounds more like Swae Lee on this hook. I wish he would’ve got the young Ear Drummer. WAIT QUAVO JUST HIT THIS AUTO-TUNE HIGH NOTE AND I HAVEN'T BEEN THIS FAR OFF THE GROUND DUE TO STRUGGLE SINGING SINCE KANYE ON 808s. QUAVO KNOWLES, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
13. "Out Yo Way"
More singing Quavo. I understand if people don’t like his singing, but it’s a tone he is able to make sound enjoyable. Kind of sounds like a love song. A Migos version of a love song, at least. Another Travis-esque hook. There’s definitely growth on the hook aspect when it comes to their songwriting. They kind of strayed away from the repetitive style that was apparent in their early hits. Takeoff redeemed himself like I knew he would. This is a rather heartfelt song. No bricks or bandos. A tribute record. It’s rather pleasant. Good song. A good close. Always end on a somewhat heartfelt note.
Charisma is in the heart of hip-hop’s Southern soil. Those who blossom from the Dirty South carry an enticing charm in the way they rhyme. Lil Jon was only able to conquer with crunk because the “Yeah"s he belted were coated in bedazzled personality. Take away his character, and he’s just a loud man with a big cup.
You see it in Jeezy and Gucci, Scarface and Pimp C, Young Thug and Young Dolph, Rick Ross and Big Boi—the list goes on and on from the young Kodaks to the old Master Ps. When Migos reached No. 1 in the country, it was another big win for Atlanta hip-hop, and the charismatic South.
When I think of Migos, I think of charisma. They have a simple, yet enchanting way of drawing you into their world of bandos, bottles and bars. I think they can rap; as I mentioned earlier, the trio is a master of tricks—a skill that not all artists possess. They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you want to rap along, and they’ll make you enjoy what you’re hearing.
The Migos aren’t the greatest rappers in the world, they aren’t the most skilled lyricists that the South has ever seen, but they are bringing a degree of fun to trap music that I can appreciate. A lot of Culture is enjoyable, one of their best put-together projects to date. It sounds as if they knew this was their time, and they weren’t going to drop the ball. There’s a bit of refinement, signs of growth, but mostly, this is the album you expect from Migos.
Giving the people what they want is what got them this far, and will likely take them far beyond 2017. Donald Trump is our president, America is slowly crumbling, and tensions are high. The best thing you can do is listen to Migos, they’ll remind you what a good time sounds like.
By Yoh, aka The 4th Migo, aka @Yoh31.