If you’ve been near a speaker or screen in the last four years, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to Migos, the North Atlanta trio who make some of the most definitive moves in viral rap. The most recent of which is the oft-meme’d “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, whose own rap style could at times be classified as a variation on the patented and much-replicated Migos Flow. This highly syncopated, entrancingly geometric flow, along with ostensible frontman Quavo’s unmistakable blurted adlibs and some of the most addictive hooks in the game has launched these three young rich gentlemen to the helm of the pop-trap ship.
Their new album Culture was foreshadowed by the singles “Call Casting”, a roomy, club-ready Buddha Bless production, and “T-Shirt”, which boasted crisp, Revenant-inspired visuals and a bouncy, almost Mustardesque Nard & B beat, as well as the aforementioned “Bad and Boujee”. Kicked off with an intro by DJ Khaled, presumably in full jurly, Culture is a concise collection of heaters, bangers, slappers, and drippers, all of which share frigid vocal mixing complemented with a layered mix of autotune, reverb, and just a *dab* of distortion where grit is of the essence. With instrumentals provided by gatekeepers like Metro Boomin, Mike Dean, and Zaytoven, as well as better-kept industry secrets (looking at you, Cardo), the overall feel of the album is exactly as depicted in the “T-Shirt” video: warmed against the winter by layers of swag, chains, furs, and bad ones. Triumph stands out as a major theme of the album, along with the contemplation of the accolades and hidden costs associated with meteoric success like Migos have experienced.
Lyrically, it’s no giant leap from the “nothing-to-something” mission statement that Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff have been affirming since their breakout “Versace”, but the heavy hearted and ultra-clean digitized melodies, particularly on the last two tracks, bring Culture into the Perc’d-out, soulless, emotional abyss where sublime trap music is born. Features are kept lean, in more sense than one, since contributors- Uzi, Gucci, 2 Chainz, and Travis Scott- are charting at significantly elevated sauce levels. Though some of Culture‘s strongest support tracks like “Big on Big” or “Get Right Witcha” are unassisted by non-Migos, the guest spots on the album are far more integral than cosmetic. Ultimately, this is an album from which thirteen people can have thirteen different favorite songs and all have a decent case to make. Culture proves unflinchingly that Migos, with charisma and technical proficiency in spades, are more than a gimmick, trend, or placeholder; they’re nothing short of iconic.