Migos are nothing if not prolific. The Atlanta trio of rappers are one of 2017’s biggest success stories, making consistent headlines throughout the year with a veritable onslaught of music. First, there was Culture, the platinum-certified studio album which came out in January and featured the likes of “T-Shirt,” “Slippery,” and the infectious “Bad and Boujee.” Then came a steady and lucrative stream of collaborations. Quavo and Offset first contributed to Calvin Harris’ “Slide,” one of 2017’s catchiest tracks; Quavo added to this with several additional high-profile features on songs by Major Lazer, A$AP Mob and DJ Khaled. Finally, the group finished out the year in style: Offset collaborated with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin on the spooky Without Warning tape, while Quavo paired with Travis Scott for the less entertaining Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho. The staggering amount of music that the group released in 2017 is a testament to their ascendance into hip-hop culture. It felt like you couldn’t go more than a few days without hearing Quavo’s Auto-Tuned trills on a new song.
After such a banner year, Migos are fully embracing their new status in hip-hop this year. Culture II feels like a victory lap, a triumphant and extravagant celebration of the group’s career so far. Unfortunately, it’s also painfully long, repetitive and completely lacking the progressive, forward-thinking attitude that made the first Culture so worthwhile. Migos have spent the last twelve months securing their status as trap rap’s three kings, however, Culture II is an utter waste of time, the latest in a series of releases which suggest that the group has reached peak saturation.
Culture II is a sequel in every traditional pop-culture sense. It’s bigger, more gratuitous and pales in comparison to its predecessor. In order to fully understand how disappointing this album is, it’s important to look back and see Culture for what it was, the most influential hip hop release of 2017. Culture‘s influence is undeniable. Listen to any major hip hop release from that year — Drake’s More Life, DJ Khaled’s Grateful, even Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN — and you’ll hear that famous triplet flow, along with a heavy mix of ad-libs and Auto-Tune melodic-ism. Migos deserve credit where credit is due for pushing trap forward. Their latest release however, does nothing to build upon their accomplishments. It is mere, dead weight.
Not only is Culture II dead weight, but it’s quite a lot of dead weight at that. This album is one hour and 45 minutes long. That’s more time than I’ve ever needed to take a college exam. That’s enough time to catch up on email, volunteer for a charity, or the other 22 things on this list of things you can do with an extra hour, all of which are certainly more entertaining, and more worthwhile than this album.
An album this long might have been worth the listen if it were decently interesting. Plenty of hour-plus albums are lauded for their imagination, diversity and careful song placement. This is not one of those albums. Culture II features production from a wide variety of trap’s biggest beat-makers: Metro Boomin, Honorable C.N.O.T.E., Murda Beatz, and many more provide beats for this record. It’s astonishing how similar every song sounds. Most of these songs do nothing to augment the typical combo of skittering hi-hats, icy synths, and blockbuster bass. The best songs on Culture II switch up the formula, but these are few and far between.
In terms of vocals, the three Migos are astonishingly consistent throughout the album, which basically means they live or die by the quality of the production. Quavo, the group’s de facto leader, continues to provide the hooks, most of which are utterly forgettable. Offset, his deep-voiced, smooth-rapping foil, drifts from song to song, spitting triplets absentmindedly. There’s not one verse of his on this project which I clearly remember. Takeoff, meanwhile, does an alright job of bringing himself to the level of the other Migos; his disorienting, double-time triplets greatly improve snooze-fests like “Notice Me” and “Higher We Go.” While some of the features manage to brighten things up — Cardi B and Nicki Minaj pop in for two minutes during “MotorSport,” giving the song a much-needed boost — Culture II is generally a monotonous slog of the same voices saying the same things, over and over and over.
There is one near-perfect consolation prize to be found in Culture II, “Stir Fry” produced by Pharrell Williams. It’s the only song brave enough to deviate from the formula. This track sizzles. The crunchy, processed drums and video game synths are a slap in the face. Suddenly, all three Migos sound awake and positively kinetic. Quavo’s hook, “In the kitchen, whippin’ like it’s stir fry,” is infectious. Offset is demonic, spitting syllables faster than you can process them. “Stir Fry” is a pressure cooker, a reminder of what the Migos can do when they’re paired with an innovative beat-maker. Here’s hoping we hear more out-of-the-box songs like it in the future.
For now, “Stir Fry” is all we’ve got. The rest of Culture II is doomed to be forgotten. Sure, “Made Men” is intriguingly soulful, “MotorSport” is alright and other songs like “Movin’ Too Fast” and “Supastars” are decent takes on the Migos formula. But in the end, following a formula is not what made Migos famous, and it’s not what will keep them at the forefront of what’s new in hip hop. Culture II can’t be described as anything other than a failure, a worrying sign of fatigue for a group which was ubiquitous in 2017. Migos have perhaps a better claim of being the “culture” than anyone else making music right now. After Culture II, however, you can’t help but wonder if it’ll last in the years to come.
Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Owen Zoll at Owen.Zoll@colorado.edu