Ad-libs on ad-libs
To call an album ‘Culture‘ is to assume the music on it makes up a large portion of, or contributes to, its very namesake. The name Migos was one that barely reached widespread commercial recognition back in 2015 when the Atlanta-based trio released their debut album Yung Rich Nation, their acclaim was found somewhere else entirely. Since their mixtape days, Migos have moved like a phantom across the hip hop game, rarely (much to their frustration I can imagine) putting a face to their plethora of internet hits. From ‘Versace’ to ‘Hannah Montana’ to ‘Pipe It Up’, their singles have served as the backing track to countless vines and other memes based in a visual medium. With Culture though, the three rappers are finally able to encapsulate their sound with their style – money, girls, jewellery and all.
Culture is no special case to Quavo, Offset and Takeoff’s continuing trend of providing tunes that send the internet into a frenzy, just look at the lead single ‘Bad and Boujee’. With a little help from a certain awards speech by Donald Glover, the song’s inescapably-catchy chant “Rain drop / Drop top” hasn’t grown stale despite its prolonged stay at the ‘You want to hate this song but you secretly love it’ Motel.
You see, Migos have done a lot for the culture (whatever culture that may be) by giving it a soundtrack. This record, like its predecessors, requires no higher brain function to fully understand, no keen eye to investigate all its nooks and crannies and no deeper spiritual understanding to fully connect with it. What it asks of you is to leave any qualms you have about Southern hip hop and have some fun with its offerings. Migos take this sentiment in their stride, carving out one enjoyable track after another, peppering each hi-hat with a lightly auto tuned ad-lib. Though they may border on annoyance at times, you can’t help but find yourself smiling when on ‘Slippery’ Quavo answers the line “I heard your bitch / She got that water” with the oh-so simple addage “Splash!”.
Simple lyricism and catchy beats are what define the group, and this is nowhere more apparent than on the record’s best track ‘T-Shirt’. The energy isn’t found in the simple synth-bass rhythm or the melodic humming, but in obvious and genuine amount of fun the rappers getting from hopping on it. Though their subject matter may get tiresome, the three of them manage to find a hundred different ways to wittily reminisce about their lack of funds when on the come-up. It’s this strange yet enticing cycle of effect – when they’re having fun, so are you, their care-free but feverish attitude towards their craft has a sort of crowd effect that’ll get everyone in the room as jumped up as they are. It’s something that music with this little of depth commonly does, but to do it across multiple tracks on a whole album? You have to commend them.
Though they find themselves firmly in the halls of success, Migos’ are often keen to explore the darker side of their ‘culture’. On ‘What the Price’ they personify the moodier side of trap as they delve into the drug world the genre’s figureheads are so accustom to. In a surprisingly thoughtful moment on the first verse, Takeoff acknowledges the ‘conventional’ routes of a successful life; religion and education, and offers himself another obvious method “Tell me what the preacher preach about / Tell me what the teacher teach about / I’ma go find me a better route”. In the midst of so much light-hearted breeziness, it’s reassuring to see even Migos take note of the more negative sides of societal restraints.
In the end, it’s the trio’s spirit that makes Culture so likeable. Despite all of its various jewellery descriptions, women’s exteriors and drug money activities, Migos don’t come across as individuals that see themselves as the bringers of a revolution. They’re not trying to push boundaries or dismantle political powers, they’re happy to sit in their lane as the guys that do it best. As Offset says in ‘Deadz’ – “I’m rich, but I did not let it change me”.
‘Culture’ is, in some ways, just the start 2017 needed after the head ache that was last year. Basking in its simple style and spear-headed by three rappers that aren’t trying to out-do each other, its a moment of real fun that fits all purposes. Migos always seemed to have a lot of potential in the way they approached upbeat trap music, and it’s clear that it’s come to fruition on their second album. With their talent finally being recognised, the pioneers of the Atlanta sound can rest easy knowing the internet worked its magic.