Culture II is a B L U D G E O N. The 24-track project is packed with references to Patek Philippe timepieces and more of the same Migos that many fans have grown to love over the past half-decade. But that’s by design. The tracklist is bloated because, right now, Billboard and RIAA rules are broken. Charts and certifications are vulnerable to hyped projects with a shitload of songs that guzzle streams on Spotify. And it works: Culture IIdebuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 199k equivalents album units sold.
Basically, Culture II is a big ass album for unsavory reasons, but it’s not all bad. Migos managed to stuff 1,967 total ad-libs into one hour and 45 minutes of runtime. These ad-libs are the most vibrant components of Culture II and, through a statistical lens, the most vital. All of the little exclamations—from Audemars to Yoda—add up to something greater than the whole.
1. Where’s Takeoff?
The ad-lib distribution on Culture II shouldn’t be a surprise. It reflects the hierarchy that’s structured the trio since “Versace.” This is Migos. Quavo, the melodic captain, kicks off 15 different songs on the album with a chorus followed by a verse followed by a chorus before a single Woo! announces the arrival of another member. Offset became one of the most in-demand rappers in the game between Culture and Culture II—his solo single “Ric Flair Drip” just went Platinum—but amongst his Migo brethern, he’s stuck as the second banana. Takeoff remains an afterthought tacked onto the end of tracks even though he shines the brightest of the bunch.
If this is the formula for good, then at least everyone’s comfy.
2. Top five, top five, top five.
It’s important to note that these are raw totals. So, when Takeoff rattles off skrrt skrrt skrrt skrrt skrrt skrrt within a single ad-lib on “Made Men,” that counts as six skrrts. The same applies to the Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo! that anticipates Offset's arrival on “Supastars.” Woo! actually appears more frequently than any other ad-lib on Culture II, but that’s because Quavo hijacked Offset’s signature entrance.
Sure, this data evidences the fact that Quavo cooks stir fry in the microwave. But these are the greatest hits, man. There’s nothing better than listening to Quavo and Offset compete for the longest skrrrrrt on “Auto Pilot” and “MotorSport,” respectively.
3. Who loves Mama! the most?
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Mama! is the matriarch of the Migos dynasty and everything is made possible through Mama! She’s the wholesome motivation that drives these guys to make maybe-too-much music. Quavo and Takeoff even bought her a house for Christmas. But Mama! is alarmingly absent on Culture II. “T-Shirt” is Migos’ magnum opus from the original Culture and its hook features almost as many Mama! ad-libs as are found on the entirety of Culture II. It would be unfair to cite the absence of Mama! as the reason for the album’s poor critical reception. But, like, it’s definitely a sign of cultural decline.
4. Empire. Dark Knight. Culture II?
Sentiment analysis is a nerdy method for measuring the emotional tone within a text. Or, many texts. It’s how big brands, like Arby’s, make sure the meats are resonating with teens on social media. But Culture II is a thicc text, so it’s perfect for sentiment analysis, too. This algorithm chewed through each of the songs and spit out sentiment scores that indicate whether the lyrical content was positive, negative or neutral. Then, weighted sentiment accounted for magnitude to determine the strength of the sentiment.
“Stir Fry” is the outlier according to weighted sentiment. It’s the only song without a featured artist that scored outside the -1.32 to +1.02 range. Pharrell’s funky production is unlike anything else on Culture II and his synth work breathes good vibes into a text with an overall negative score.
All three members of the Migo Gang also scored in the negative, but Takeoff’s tone was significantly darker than Quavo or Offset. Exhibit A: “Too Much Jewelry.” Takeoff sparkles cold over keys that are foreboding and glistening, like fresh snow, and then Quavo dazzles with a bridge that hits like one too many lines of the stepped-on stuff. (Shouts to Google Cloud Natural Language API.)
5. The Gang Gang can’t lose.
The ad-libs on Culture II form a distinct composition. There are elements of symmetry (skrrtskrrt), elements of texture (brrt), and elements of balance (God!). If you look at the total ad-libs per track on the album, the peaks and valleys are both sweet. “Emoji a Chain,” a LeBron James favorite, features 143 ad-libs, while “Gang Gang,” the heir to HNDRXX, only features 35.
Culture II is complicated. The song structures are often predictable and the default dynamic badly needs something new. But slight disappointment and overexposure shouldn’t be damning. Yeah, Quavo mailed in guest spots on the Hot 100 over the summer with superhuman frequency, but here, he’s at home. “Culture National Anthem” completes the album with 44 ad-libs evenly distributed between the three Migos. It’s campy syrup that hits the spot as Culture II comes to a close. There’s one more Mama! ad-lib, too. Then it’s over.
The path was wayward and warbled, but Culture II allowed Migos to tie The Beatles for the most simultaneous entries on the Hot 100 among groups. 14 tracks, about the length of an album. But that album wouldn’t be Culture II.
Additional reporting by Jake Anderson.