Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff need no introduction. This wasn't always the case, though. Their current level of celebrity wasn’t foreseeable during the “Hannah Montana” days, the humble beginnings when Migos teetered on viral and invisible.
Migos are pop music, the new pop stars. If you believe numbers don’t lie, the group is thriving. They aren’t wasting the moment, either. Throughout 2017, they flooded the market with new group material, joint tapes as solo artists, a compilation alongside QC’s newcomers, and lent their sauce to the highest bidder―it's been nonstop content.
Is it too much? Are they destined to drown themselves and their audience with all this sauce?
One day separates Culture II from being released on the one-year anniversary of Culture, one of 2017's most highly-favored releases. Standing very tall at 24 tracks, and clocking in at one hour and 45 minutes, the follow-up sequel is a much bigger monster than its predecessor. An album of this size comes with the fear of being bloated and boring, crammed with the same song and dance that they are known for. I love the Migos, and I enjoy their music immensely, but I've never desired to hear an album from them the length of LeVar Burton’s Roots. But this is their world, I’m just writing in it. My hope is that Culture II will be the surprise treat that Culture was, even if it's twice as long.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. *insert appropriate ad-lib*
1. "Higher We Go (Intro)"
If Culture II was a house, Quavo's singing is an absurd but alluring welcome mat. Mid-tempo start. Cool keys. I think I heard a doorbell or something ring loudly. Quavo’s voice is strangely jumping octaves, going from passive-aggressive monotone to a passive-aggressive shout. His verse isn’t very interesting, too slow, and a lack of energy makes this a quick snoozefest. The tempo just increased and so did his flow. Much better. Well, it was better. This song has fluctuated a lot, one for those who like their Migos with a double scoop of Quavo. I do like the chant. Imagine if Quavo had a church and the congregation said, “Higher we go, beg and plead for the culture,” instead of “Amen” to end all prayers. Takeoff! His voice has grown on me, it has a nice weight to it. I’m already bored. Offset! Going heavy with the reverb. Okay! This Offset verse is good but this song is way too long. Quavo did the absolute most and yet brought very little to the song. This isn’t an awful start but I’m already bored.
Elegant keys provided by Honorable C.N.O.T.E. and Buddah Bless. I almost wish no drums would interrupt the gracefulness. I wish this was the intro. There’s a futuristic funkiness to the bassline like it was made with a 3D printer. Getting a nice high school varsity football theme song vibe, the sort of song to get you pumped up but not start a riot. Drums are a bit messy, but the dirt is adding character. I'm liking this Quavo verse much more than whatever he whispered on the intro. Migos played themselves by not making this the first song. Takeoff has been tagged in and sounds like he just woke up from a relaxing kush nap. Rappers love to mention Al Capone. Two songs in and the flows aren’t very exciting. There’s a lack of... effort? They’re just coasting. Offset is carrying “Supastars” on his back like LeBron with Cleveland down in the fourth. I'm loving everything about his verse. Delivery, flow, ad-libs, it’s all there. I like the vibe, but the drums are overbearing and the lack of exciting performances from Quavo and Takeoff is ending this one with very little eagerness to return.
Modern trap rappers love Narcos like ‘90s street rappers love Scarface. Spanish sample? Okay! I love how the snare came in. 808s are hitting. Sounds like an early favorite already. Quavo is bringing the necessary flavor. “This real rap no mumble.” I feel like I’m in a jungle with a machete picking up bricks from the plug while watching for pirates. This is a good energy. Quavo is doing his best Young Thug impersonating Wyclef impression and I'm not upset. I like Offset doing the hook instead of Quavo. The bass is disgusting. Offset is snapping. The Skip to My Lou has me wanting to rewatch all the AND1 streetball mixtapes. The flow has my head swirling faster than a dead family fish being flushed. I wonder if Pablo Escobar ever imagined becoming a hip-hop icon. Takeoff has arrived and he is not playing. This is a good one.
4. "BBO (Bad Bitches Only)" ft. 21 Savage
Nice little bounce! I'm loving the horn in the background. 21 sounds a little different but he’s blitzing through the beat as if the album is at 4th & 10 and they need a touchdown to keep my interest. Really like this tempo. Can’t resist the shimmy. When Quavo raps you can almost hear his grill glistening. Repetitive hook but it's catchy. Offset's woos have been my favorite part of the album but he hasn’t had the dynamic moment we heard on “Bad and Boujee.” This verse didn’t stick to the ribs. Drums are DANCING like Drake’s diamonds. They finally gave Takeoff a verse to take off on. By far his best performance of the album so far. I like this but the hook is dragging it down. It had so much potential to fly.
5. "Auto Pilot (Huncho on the Beat)"
Five songs in and the album already feels exhaustingly long. Culture had an incredible stretch of records on the front-half of the album, but so far all I feel like doing is stretching out on my bed. Sounds like a sample floating in the background. Drums harder than a pop quiz on the first day of P3 Calculus. Quavo rapping with his chest out, his natural chemistry is lacing the verse. Quavo is at his best when he’s all charm and bravado, one without the other is boring. In and out the pocket like Aladdin before he met Jasmine. Harmonies mixing with the ad-libs in the background. OKAY! We finally have a record with some ENERGY. There’s so much happening with the production, and I love it. Takeoff sounds really good. Yep. This is the one. When Quavo switches the flow, you’ll want to fist pump your ceiling. Offset's batting third. “Say what I say you a parrot,” facts. When they are on, IT'S FIRE. If Quavo produced this he needs to do an entire EP.
6. "Walk It Talk It" ft. Drake
When was the last Migos collab with Drake? OG Parker on the beat. Quavo repeating the song title. Nice little knock. It's got some bounce. Point guard Quavo bringing the ball up. Hahaha. He has to get some points for successfully working scoliosis into a bar. This hook is bad. The beat is making it bearable, but nothing should be this simplistic. Even for the Migos. Okay Drake, don’t let me down. Eh, he’s saying a whole bunch of nothing. He basically rapped Charlie Brown’s teacher’s 'Mwa-Mwa-Mwa.' Yeah, this isn’t it. Boooo! Give the Migos back their money! Aubrey, I wasn’t expecting you to bring out the tomato for your verse. The delivery was so lazy and lackluster. I’m ready to give Offset an MVP trophy. This Quavo hook makes me want to put my head underneath an elephant’s foot. I'd rather listen to Katt Williams and Kevin Hart rap battle on 106 & Park than hear the hook again.
7. "Emoji a Chain"
Deep down I believe there’s no way I can like a song called “Emoji a Chain” but maybe I’m wrong. Thank god for Offset. This is cool. Metro hasn’t dropped the hard drums, but I like it stripped down. I wonder if this was a leftover from the Without Warning sessions. It’s a familiar vibe with the Fright Fest keys. There’s a lack of unity. Not feeling very collaborative. Everyone is just being tagged in and floating through. I wish every song was like the Llama Llama Red Pajama freestyle. So far the hooks really aren’t doing it for me. No Auto-Tune Quavo. All raps. Not bad. I just caught that Offset said his wrist looks like a McFlurry and now my entire opinion of the song has changed. Keeper. Nah, I'm lying. Shouts to McFlurries tho—when the machine is working. Breakdown at the end took a twist. Creepy. I’ll have nightmares. Sounds like a sex bot's battery dying.
8. "CC" ft. Gucci Mane
Some cool synths. The drums have a nice punch. Quavo's voice just went straight Tron. Strange but I’m here for it. The Travis Scott influence is real. Is that a flute in the background? This could be the making of something. I never imagined I’d think Quavo is getting too much song time, but he’s really soaking it up. GUCCI! He doesn’t sound like himself. I’m used to a stuffy Gucci. Since becoming a New York Times bestseller he bought a new nasal cavity. These are the kind of beats Gucci shines on. Offset came on the song like a starving shark who just discovered a school of fish and is ready to chomp down. I would enjoy these songs much more if we cut Quavo short and allowed Takeoff and Offset to get more than the tail end of each song.
9. "Stir Fry"
I didn’t appreciate how much fun this song is upon initial release. It’s a party compounded into three minutes. The best Migos songs feel like you’re experiencing a really great event without leaving your house. Skateboard snapped. Quavo cooked. Offset is cooking. This is the BPM I need all Migos songs to clock in at. The album has been far too longwinded and mid-tempo. And this is a good hook, by Migos standards. Takeoff sounds like he was still eating stir-fry when his verse started. Ha. I love when he tried to do follow the melody. It sounds so terrible, but so good. Pharrell found the perfect groove for them.
10. "Too Much Jewelry"
I’m praying the album continues that energy! Culture II needs a streak. Zaytoven beat. Sounds like a flute from Japan’s Feudal era. I’m not happy with the Zay beat, the drums feel so basic. Migos sound good. Offset sliced through it. He would’ve made a great samurai. Bragging about jewelry isn’t quite as interesting as OJ da Juiceman counting his bricks. Ah! Now we have a random switch-up. Quavo went FULL techno with the Auto-Tune. There’s some very strange attempts made on this album. That was an X-Files moment. Does David Duchovny listen to the Migos?
11. "Gang Gang"
Hmm. I like these muted drums and this woman’s voice harmonizing in the background. This is strange. Offset is singing. The production reminds me of HNDRXX, the tropical vibes of “Testify.” They might have something with “Gang Gang.” It’s just weird enough to work. It’s a nice change of pace. Quavo doing his Quavo Wonder harmonies. Auto-Tune Takeoff saying he wanted nachos was with way more passion and desire than the woman they sing about. I like this. With better placement on a better album I would love it. Fair warning, it won't be for everyone.
12. "White Sand" ft. Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign & Big Sean
A couple different sonic decisions outside of Migos' comfort zone. “White Sand” is one of them. I feel like I’m in a slow-motion video. Ty Dolla! I’m surprised we don’t get more songs with him and T. Scott. Dolla said getting head in his Porsche caused him to crash and I’m not sure if that’s a brag or a travesty. Biggie Sean. Fam, Sean said his girl might propose to him because he’s the one and I want to stop everything hahahaha. I love Big Sean, I really do. I’m ready to put this entire song in a bowl of rice. Production is messy, too many artists overlapping, “White Sand” is like being at the center of a brainstorm. Too many ideas. Too many cooks.
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13. "Crown the Kings"
I like how this one is building up. “Talking to her cheap like money ain’t green,” I’m not sure what this means but I feel you. Not a bad verse. My back is beginning to ache and my eyes are heavy, I’m getting too old for the late night listens for albums longer than 4:44. I’m under the impression Migos released this album to torture me. There’s absolutely no reason to have so many songs that simply feel like throwaways. I like that Offset said him and Cardi are like Jay and Beyoncé. Power couple. Also shoutout to all the thots, they are showed love on pretty much every song. Hahaha, love the Soulja Boy line, Takeoff. I swear every Takeoff verse is 11.5 bars.
Kudos to Big K.R.I.T. I felt like it was a good time to shout him out. He really gave us a strong double disc, no easy feat. Back to Migos. I give Migos credit, they understand how to use their voices to add texture to each verse. This Offset verse is rewind-worthy. Okay. We might have another keeper. I wasn’t feeling the beat, way too ominous, but there’s a darkness to it that fits with Migos' tougher persona. “Shoot like I play for Duke,” I hear you Quavo. “Superbad call me McLovin” after a McNugget line, never change Takeoff. Yes! I am pleased by this exhibition of Migo greatness. One of the few songs thus far that sounds flawlessly Migos.
Murda Beatz is highly underrated. Whoa! Bass! My hair just stood up. Not the most enjoyable record but I see some potential here. No. I take it back. Too much of what I’ve heard. Lets see if Offset can save it. No… No I don’t think so. He found his footing toward the end, but it’s all starting to sound repetitive. Culture II has been like walking through a desert—occasionally you’ll see a fountain of water, but once the short but wonderful hallucination ends you realize it’s just more sand. Beat still bangs, word to Murda.
16. "Open It Up"
I don’t know if I’m going to make it through the rest of this album. I need something to really sink my teeth into. Cardo tag. My hopes are high, my heart is racing, I really like this dramatic buildup. He better not leave me feeling like Nas after hearing “Power Trip.” I’m satisfied. These keys are straight out of Hades. Quavo found something to be excited about. Similar vibe to “Deadz,” it sounds like a direct audio sequel. Did he use the same chords? Tough talk. Takeoff ice skating. “Your family calls you Martin Lawrence,” is a way of saying your family calls you a joke? Whoa whoa whoa. This fast flow. I’m here for it. Offset just shot out of a cannon and speared the beat. Yeah, I think that the album goes so long I'm just looking for things to get excited about. “Open It Up” isn’t “Deadz” but I like it.
17. "MotorSport" w/ Nicki Minaj & Cardi B
I forgot this was the first single. Compared to most of the album, the singles have been pretty damn good. The controversy around Nicki and Cardi really made me miss an enjoyable Migos song. “No human being I’m immortal,” I need Neil Gaiman to write a novel about the immortal Offset. Cardi has so much personality. Energy, chemistry, and quotables. How can you not love her? I don't remember the last time a Nicki verse really sent me running around the house. She has such a wonderful rap voice. Even with all the switches. The fast flow is tight. Before she said potty. There’s a completely different effort to some of the more notable records.
18. "Movin' Too Fast"
How is this album still going? I feel like I been watching a marathon of Migos episodes and they just keep coming. Hm. Getting a few personal bars about grandma. Offset said he doesn’t have feelings, I saw feelings when he saw that Wraith. A mostly stripped-down skeleton works for them in cases like this. The song isn’t bad. It’s just not saving me from this lukewarm album. But I might go back to it.
19. "Work Hard"
“Dropped out of school didn’t graduate,” Okay! Quavo making a hit out of the shortcomings he overcame. Dun Deal came through with the jubilant, shoulder-shimmy tempo. I can imagine this being an anthem and a great song for positive reinforcement. Did Offset just stop mid-verse to count money? No words, all respect. Wait, I think that was Takeoff. I’m no longer sure if I’m confusing Migos or if they’re switching places like Mary-Kate and Ashley during Full House. I was wrong. It was Takeoff. Offset has a nice one. He said his kids think he’s Hercules and Superman, very different, yet, somehow, not different at all. Whenever I get frustrated with the album a song pulls me back in, sorta. “Work Hard” is very good.
20. "Notice Me" ft. Post Malone
Post Malone, the non-rapper. Post doing his sleepish singing voice. His voice has that just-woke-up rasp, doesn’t sound bad. The beat is mellow, dreamy. FKi picked an interesting beat for Migos, but going minimal will likely pay off. If there was a quiet storm trap playlist on Spotify, “Notice Me” would be perfect. It’s a cool switch-up. Definitely unlike anything else on the album. Not sure how I feel about Quavo’s bridge. There’s no consistency at all.
21. "Too Playa" ft. 2 Chainz
Is that a sax? With Quavo harmonies? YES! Quavo said he made the beat. These drums with the saxophone are NICE. Quavo said he feels like André 3000 and I’ll never forget it. I won’t pretend like I'm not enjoying this immensely. Why didn’t the rest of the album follow suit? This is fun and fresh. “Playa Circle that’s my first squad,” TITY BOI!!!! I love how Chainz raps every verse like it’s going to pay his child’s college tuition. Even when the bars aren’t to die for, you’ll love how he delivered them. “The way these hoes like to film nigga, Larenz Tate,” hahahaha. Quavo is doing hooks, bridges, verses, and making the beat. I'm tipping my hat. Takeoff just counted down to take off, life has completely left my body. I am a only a vessel. The saxophonist has made my night. Best feature so far. Clap for that man.
22. "Made Men"
So far one of the best beats on the album. Loving the keys. Loving how the drums are hitting. There’s a sample looped in the back. Mellow. It’s kinda boring. This is a beat I wish Rick Ross would’ve ate wings on. Not a bad song. The beat is one that will inspire introspection, there’s definitely a reflectiveness to their verses, there’s just so little depth. I wish the Migos would open up a bit more, but that would be off brand.
23. "Top Down on da NAWF"
The album has almost completely slowed down. It’s as if all the street lights turned yellow and everyone is moving at a cautious pace. Quavo is singing, with a lot of passion. I wouldn’t mind the change in mood if the album wasn’t so long and schizophrenic. Offset showing signs of survivor's guilt. Some good stuff here. I really love this Quavo chorus. I guess North Atlanta has an anthem. Rare. Takeoff brought a shovel to bury this beat. Quavo getting his Cudi harmonies off. The last 15 seconds of this song has me considering what a 808s & Heartbreak Quavo album would sound like. I know I don’t need it but you have to wonder sometimes.
24. "Culture National Anthem (Outro)"
I could cry from the pure joy of reaching the end. I feel like I just completed 400 hours of Final Fantasy VII. “Do it for the culture” - Quavo Pain voice. Why haven’t T-Pain and Quavious blessed with a duet? It's needed. Loving the melody. I’m upset I didn’t write that more in this review. So many banal melodies. Takeoff and Offset don’t sound bad. Quavo is really dragging this grand finale out, huh? I guess if I've been here for almost two hours he can finish his bridge.
Culture II is a challenge. It's a test against patience, dedication, and hope for a series of songs that will make you feel like the first one did. I wanted enjoyment, but the project forced me to search for a good time where little could be found.
There’s no legitimate reason to recommend sitting through the entirety of Culture II. Anyone who loves Migos is better off replaying the first album—the album that they did right. In my opening, I wrote that I feared that Culture II would be bloated and boring, and it is. The album is obese, a body of work overstuffed with fat. It’s not just a lot of music, but lengthy songs, unnecessary verses, redundant choruses, and forgettable bridges. Without any true, consistent rhythm or vision for the album’s progression, Culture II just drags on long after interest wanes and the mind begins to wonder. Migos aren’t and never have been the most wowing lyricists, but they’ve always exuded an energy too infectious to deny and charisma that compels listeners to fall under their spell. Sadly, Culture II isn’t very infectious and the only spell I felt from the album was one that encouraged heavy eyes.
Migos shouldn’t have released Culture II. At best, a few songs are worthy of becoming singles. But as a whole, the album is large and unbalanced. Nothing new is said, their methods haven’t undergone significant development; to release a project that does everything wrong your previous project did right was an easily avoidable setback. A number of songs will make it to streaming playlists, and my interest was grabbed briefly toward the end, but as a whole, Culture II is too much and not enough simultaneously.
Culture II is like receiving access to the Migos' hard drives and seeing all the orphans that failed to find a home on any of their many projects from last year. There’s a sense that the album was intended to be built as a playlist, exchanging cohesiveness to cast a wider net, but that net doesn’t do much but tangle up the artists in a web of forgettable attempts to please everyone.
Early Favorites: "Stir Fry," "Flooded," "Narcos," "Auto Pilot"
Early Not-So-Favorites: "Walk It Talk It," "Higher We Go (Intro)," "White Sand"
By Yoh, aka Yoh II, aka @Yoh31