Migos had every reason to go down as a footnote in the brief history of the trap genre. The collective — made up of Atlanta rappers Quavo, Offset and Takeoff — dropped its breakout single, “Versace,” almost five years ago but failed to recreate the track’s success because of a string of PR and legal issues.
But these setbacks didn’t stop the persistent trio from returning to the spotlight.
Migos broke onto the scene in October 2016, with the help of rising Soundcloud rapper Lil Uzi Vert, with the release of “Bad and Boujee,” skyrocketing the group to unprecedented fame. They followed the hit single with the release of a full-length album in 2017, becoming the subject of internet memes and earned a pair of Grammy nominations.
The stripped down, repetitive sounds of Migos’ 2017 album, “Culture,” dominated the party scene last year, serving as another marker of hip hop’s recent dominance in popular music.
“Culture II,” the group’s third album released Jan. 26, is a sequel in every sense — it maintains the lyrical themes of the trap lifestyle featured on its predecessor — but it doesn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounded it in the wake of last year’s success.
The album’s three lead singles were dropped over the course of a few months to varying degrees of success. “MotorSport” features the one-two punch of rap femme fatales Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. The contrast between the mumbled baritone of Migos and the pointed finesse of the featured artists is so satisfying that it almost distracts from the fact that the song drags on for more than five minutes.
In spite of the success of these singles, “Supastars” — released about a week before “Culture II” — foreshadowed the kind of lazy craftsmanship that would ultimately plague Migos on the new album. Lines like, “I put my wrist inside the freezer, came out froze,” are unoriginal, predictable and lack the cleverness that brought Migos this far.
At first glance, one glaring issue of “Culture II” is its length. At 24 tracks and almost two hours in length, this album is nearly as self-indulgent as the 40-track flop we saw from Chris Brown earlier this year, “Heartbreak on a Full Moon.”
These super-sized albums have become increasingly popular among artists due to the shift from physical releases to digital. It is nearly impossible to release an album of this length without any filler or subpar tracks.
On “Culture,” tracks like “Bad and Boujee” made it apparent that Migos had found an effective song structure to churn out rap hits. Each song on “Culture II” follows the same three-verse format, rarely deviating, making the album unbearable to listen to in one sitting.
While several songs on “Culture II” do feature as many as five verses, they still create a painful, monotonous listening experience. Very few tracks clock in under four minutes, and the predictable structure and beats fall flat.
The album finds some redemption lyrically — Takeoff really comes into his own on several of the tracks, elevating him from an expendable member of the group to a vital piece of the Migos puzzle. Takeoff’s flow on tracks like “White Sand” has a new-found vigor and intensity that was previously missing on “Culture.” Offset continues to provide solid verses, while Quavo’s autotune-littered hooks are still a highlight of Migos’ sound.
In spite of this infrequent lyrical merit, the song topics are lazy — seemingly spawned from some kind of random word generator on tracks like “Beast” and “Flooded.”
The album has a big helping of guest features — from superstars like 21 Savage, Drake, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, Post Malone and 2 Chainz.
The features have varying degrees of effectiveness, the most impressive of which is the 2 Chainz verse on “Too Playa.” 21 Savage and Post Malone’s hooks on “BBO” and “Notice Me,” respectively, underutilize the abilities of the artists, and Drake’s verse on “Walk It Talk It” feels out of place.
If there is one thing to take away from this album, it’s that Migos is only as good as its producer. The beats that stand out on the album were produced by true masters of the craft, including Kanye West, Metro Boomin and Zaytoven. Quavo produced several tracks himself, showing signs of talent but also a level of inconsistency that proves he is still finding his footing.
It is undeniable that Migos’ brand of trap already hit its peak. Younger rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump and the late Lil Peep have been trailblazers for a new variety of this genre that is leaving originators like Migos and Future in the dust.
While Migos is sure to remain in the spotlight and continue gaining recognition for its work, “Culture II” was not a complete success and may be the beginning of the end of this trio’s enormous popularity.