During his acceptance speech for Best Television Comedy at the Golden Globes (Glover won two awards by the way, both for ‘Atlanta’), Donald Glover had the following to say: “I’d like to thank the Migos – not for being on the show, but for making ‘Bad and Boujee’”. That track (along with that speech) has created quite the buzz for the trap trio as of late. It’s not surprising really – although remaining fairly formulaic – it’s not any old trap anthem; Metro brings his most mesmerising synths to the table, and the Mac-11 cadence of Offset’s triplet flow demonstrates just how punchy “mumble rap” can be – when left to the professionals, that is.
However, Migos were important long before ‘Bad and Boujee’ – and long before they were publically endorsed by one of rap’s friendlier faces – they could and should be recognised for laying down the foundation for each wave of Atlantan trapsters that come through. Creating a dance move that has permeated and gripped the most obscure corners of pop culture (I needn’t list the torrent of memes) and consistently providing bars that simultaneously promote laughs and gun fingers. In that spirit, ‘Culture’ is not merely Migos’ second studio album, it’s a demonstration of their role as tastemakers in Atlanta and beyond – and a deserved victory lap.
The production – as you’d expect on a Migos album – bangs. Big hitters such as Metro, Nard & B, Purps (808 Mafia), Cardo and Zaytoven all provide the trunk-rattling 808s that we crave, and the real instrumentation lends a funkier twist to their trap sound whilst typifying their bando-to-a-mansion story perfectly. ‘Big on Big’, ‘Deadz’ and ‘Brown Paper Bag’ are all excellent examples of this – ‘Get Right Witcha’, however, truly finesses the formula. Hypnotic bells are complimented with an earthy pan flute that flutters between registers, creating a bizarre sonic space where groovy meets eerie. Quavo, then, wastes no time with this one – laying down the sort of bravado-fuelled hook that would make any A&R’s eyes switch to dollar signs: “I ain’t really here to take no pictures (flash) / Middle finger up fuck the system (fuck ‘em)”. The Nard & B-produced ‘T-Shirt’ creates a similar atmosphere, though; the creeping reversed synths are juxtaposed with a boppy bassline that guides the drums, providing the perfect platform for the trio’s infectious yip-yap adlibs.
Perhaps Migos’ most impressive feat on ‘Culture’, however, is their ability to work as a cohesive unit; there is rarely any jostling for space, and no discernible attempts at one-upmanship. Quavo’s ‘smooth operator’ on-wax persona, for example, lends itself perfectly to the lead role on tracks like ‘Get Right Witcha’ and ‘Slippery’ (speaking of ‘Slippery’ – Gucci comes in fourth and still manages to steal it); ‘Bad and Boujee’, on the other hand, necessitated Offset’s pow-pow-pow delivery, so it was only right he took the lead. But that’s not all – tracks like ‘All Ass’, ‘Call Casting’ and, in particular, ‘What The Price’ find all three parties working in unison to great effect: Takeoff’s punchy first verse on ‘What The Price’ is complimented with Quavo’s crushed, auto-tuned croon, beefing up the vocals nicely. Following this, all three members jump on the hook to harmonise amongst the smouldering electric guitars, generating a triumphant trap moment which any individual artist would struggle to replicate.
The features are well placed too (except for maybe Lil Uzi Vert. I mean, the dude’s got some cool tracks – but his verse really fucked up the bass). DJ Khaled provides a slice of his patented pre-drop life coaching, which is always welcome; Gucci Mane belongs on any seminal Atlanta trap album, really; and Travis Scott’s gentle auto-tuned vocals bear a striking resemblance to Quavo’s, so the pair trading melodies on the thumping ‘Kelly Price’ made a lot of sense.
With all that said, however, there isn’t one track on ‘Culture’ where any member of the group is demoted to a supporting role. This, I believe, speaks volumes for their charisma, and is truly a demonstration that the Migos are an entity far greater than the sum of their parts. Their sophomore album, then, isn’t just a demonstration that they are key players in this culture – but rather that they have it in stranglehold.