Historically, even the most prominent groups in hip-hop have always had a weak link. Wu-Tang Clan had U-God’s muddled cadence and Masta Killa’s almost wistfully dull presence. Pras could never climb to the insurmountable heights of brilliance that Wyclef and Lauryn Hill managed during the early days of Fugees. Even Odd Future, for all of their trendsetting and incredible solo projects, had Mike G, Taco and Jasper to weigh even the group’s best material down.
The most complicated aspect of the rap group has always been the delicate balance of skill between each member; the distribution of musical power so that one piece of the puzzle never feels out of place. Migos has mastered that balance of power up to this point.
The first sign of a historically important rap group is evident once you begin asking fans to choose the group's best member. If you ask someone which member of the Wu-Tang Clan was the best, you’re likely to hear an assortment of arguments with terms like Tical, Tony Stark, The Chef and whatever a “Liquid Sword” actually is to prove their point. For every argument that places André 3000 in the top five rappers of all-time, there are those who argue that Big Boi was actually the most consistent member of OutKast’s golden years. That subjectivity, the preference of certain attributes that each member of rap’s most famous groups brings to the table, isn’t just a random occurrence. It’s a very real formula that ultimately equates to better music, and Migos' three members have fine-tuned each of their individual sounds over the years to the point that we can legitimately look at each one as, arguably, the best member of the group.
The meteoric rise of Migos over the past year only tells a portion of the tale, though. The Atlanta trio, consisting of Quavo, Offset and Takeoff—the first two cousins and Takeoff a nephew of Quavo—have been developing their brand for the last six years, following the 2011 release of their very first mixtape, Juug Season. Since then, the group has dropped enough music to keep even the most enthusiastic listener busy for days, decrypting every pulpy, outlandishly grandiose lyric the three rappers produce.
So, what exactly does each member of Migos bring to the table that separates them from their familial counterparts? Furthermore, what about each of those distinct attributes makes them arguably the best of the three? Let’s discuss…
To understand the argument for Quavo as the definitive star of Migos, all you have to do is pay attention to every legitimate rap hit of the last few months. From "Pick Up The Phone" to "Congratulations" to "I'm The One," Quavo has been everywhere. Quavo is also undoubtedly the most popular member of Migos, hands down, and it's not even close.
Quavo has always been the unequivocal workhorse of the trio, handling the hooks for most of the group’s biggest hits. Often sporting a much higher-pitched voice than either Offset or Takeoff, as well as handling any and all singing duties for the group, Quavo’s artistry has always stemmed from his overwhelming charisma and confidence. That may seem especially evergreen when discussing a group whose material has always been about an almost otherworldly level of confidence, yet Quavo operates on a higher level on many of the group’s biggest songs.
Take the group’s earliest hits, “Hannah Montana” and “Versace,” for example. Quavo not only serves as the lead-off batter on each, but his command over the simplistic hooks sets a tone for the rest of the track for Takeoff and Offset to follow. On Migos’ best projects, such as Y.R.N. (Young Rich N****s), Rich N*** Timeline and No Label 2, it’s Quavo who steps to the plate countless times with a James Harden-esque workload, distributing the forcefulness and gravity of each song to the other two members and setting them up for success. On No Label 2, his verses on “First 48,” “Antidote” and “Freak No More” aren’t just incredible, they’re essential.
Projects like Yung Rich Nation, the group’s official debut album, feel at times like compositions feeding strictly off of the energy Quavo channels. On the album’s opening track, “Memoirs,” it’s his abrasive and unapologetic lyrics that make the track so effective, and that opener only serves as the appetizer for what turns out to be an all-star showing from the group’s brightest member.
Much of Migos’ early success, and the sustainability the group had managed up until they released “Bad and Boujee,” would have never occurred without Quavo and that’s why his argument for best member of the group is so strong. Upon listening again, the staple projects of Migos’ discography—the unmitigated intensity of Y.R.N., the refined and calculated hit-making on No Label 2, the attention to storytelling and narrative on Yung Rich Nation—don’t feel possible without Quavo’s ability to carry the load when it mattered the most.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Migos' current rise to fame—and the group's overall improvement in lyricism and song quality—is its direct correlation with Takeoff's improvement as a rapper. Serving as arguably the least-known member of the group, Takeoff is ironically the trio’s most distinctive voice. Not to mention, he's the best technical rapper in the group as well.
There’s always been an engagingly unpredictable quality to Takeoff’s contributions to Migos projects that have always separated his style from Quavo and Offset. Rapping with a baritone, Rick Ross timber in his voice, Takeoff’s skillset is a stylistic concoction often overlooked and underrated. One might best describe it as lyrical nitroglycerin, often laying waste to songs in its path with the constant reminder that it could blow up in his hands at any moments.
Earlier in his career, that self-control was less evident with much of the ground his all-too-familiar staccato syncopations and unrestrained ad libs had managed to make crumbling beneath him. He would seemingly lose himself within the madness he had created. His lyrics would almost become parodies of themselves, ranging anywhere from inexplicable to downright bad.
Yet, around the time of No Label 2, something special began for Migos’ youngest member; he got better at rapping. No longer was he a victim of his own creation, but instead a force to be reckoned with on almost every track. Listening to “Fight Night,” the biggest hit from NL2, you begin to notice a much clearer version of the rapper. Takeoff’s verse and hook feel poised and purposeful, his lyrics fit into the track cleanly, and even his infamous ad-libbing has better timing.
By Rich N**** Timeline, the group’s next mixtape, it's clear Takeoff felt more comfortable with his ability to switch cadences at a moment’s notice. He steals the show on the tape’s opening track, “Cross The Country,” improves at introspection on tracks like “Struggle” and “Rich N*** Timeline,” and his complete flow change-up on “Nawfside” remains one of his shining moments as the group’s most experimental member.
Takeoff’s rise during past projects isn’t what truly makes him arguably the best member of Migos, though. Instead, it’s his showing on Culture, the group's hit album released earlier this year. Unequivocally the biggest release of the group’s history, Culture is not only a force to be reckoned with musically, especially with the internet movement behind it, but it’s the most polished Migos project to date, due in large part to Takeoff. Whether it’s his magnetic performance on “T-Shirt,” the album’s second hit single, or his technical proficiency on tracks like “Slippery” and “Get Right Witcha,” Takeoff shows up on Culture like a rapper possessed, fully aware of his own potential and ready to explode.
Culture isn’t just a great album because of Takeoff, but its most successful components run almost parallel with that of Takeoff’s most improved attributes as a rapper. Point to any of Migos’ past projects and Quavo’s proficiency is a strong case for why he is the best member of Migos but look no further than the current iteration of the trio to make the case for Takeoff. The better he gets, the more essential he becomes, and with Migos seemingly at the height of their popularity, his ability to craft excellent, engaging music will be central to them remaining on top.
The case for Offset as the trio's best member requires context, as it's the hardest argument to make. Having been in and out of jail twice since they began their career, Offset’s progression between each Migos project has always felt stunted at times, with only flashes of brilliance left to hang onto.
There is little denying that Offset, when focused, has the best pen game in the group and can hang with the intensity of Takeoff and the adaptable genius of Quavo without ever having to alter his voice inflection. His presence is calmer than his counterparts, with only his initial “Offset!” ad lib daring to reach a boisterous level. Ironically, while style is the most leveled, his contributions fall all over the quality spectrum from tape to tape.
The potential for something greater is always there, seeping out in verses you would never expect. On Yung Rich Nation opener “Memoirs," Offset goes toe to toe with Quavo as the two exchange bars in a way that’s hard to spot the drop-off in quality from someone as refined as Quavo to the more sporadic Offset. On “M&M’s,” from the No Label 2 mixtape, Offset hides in plain sight until the end of the track only to eviscerate the beat with a string of intense multisyllable words. Even on Migos’ more introspective material, Offset occasionally either shares or steals the spotlight from Quavo and Takeoff, most apparent on Rich N*** Timeline. Songs like “Can’t Believe It” and “Wishy Washy” weave storytelling, singing lyrics, and cadence transitions that manage to combine the best aspects of both Quavo and Takeoff into Offset’s style. In these moments, Offset’s ceiling feels nowhere in sight.
His crowning achievement is his verse on “Bad and Boujee,” Migos’ biggest hit to date and an absolute monster from top to bottom (until Lil Uzi Vert shows up). Offset’s verse is spectacular, catchy and manages to outshine an equally great showing from Quavo. Yet, as I stated earlier, it’s the only shining moment for Offset on an entire album’s worth of songs from Culture. Fitting into his own narrative, Offset’s potential feels cut short by his inability to string together multiple interesting verses over the course of a project.
So how exactly could he be the best member with so many missteps along the way? The answer lies in the moments between those missteps. Offset’s abilities stand in direct contrast to that of both Quavo and Takeoff in many ways. At times, Quavo’s contributions can feel suffocating, with the majority of Migos’ biggest verses and hooks claimed by him. As well, Takeoff’s pathos as a rapper can still be just as dangerous to his own verse despite better efforts to rein himself in. Yet, there stands Offset, the rapper we can’t quite put a finger on, but who we've heard enough from to know the immense talent that exists and is waiting to burst. In that context, which takes into consideration the path and future Migos has in front of it as well as the group's past stagnation while he was locked up, Offset is the group's best member by virtue of him being the essential component to their ongoing success.
Migos isn’t the Wu-Tang Clan or OutKast. Or Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, or even The Lox. The group's mark on rap isn’t quite fully developed, and to judge them based on previous legends feels unfair. Yet, despite their differences, Migos is nearing something quite special, and that potential glory is made possible by the fact that each of its three members brings something unique to the table.
With each of their styles competing against one another for the group's top spot, Migos will continue to succeed where others eventually fell as a group, and that matters. Each of Migos’ members, and why they could be argued as its best, contribute to a piece of the group’s history, whether that’s in its foundation (Quavo), it’s current peak and improvement (Takeoff), or in its almost unimaginable future (Offset). Let's never take that for granted.