It’s safe to say that 2017 was a great year for Migos. They even had an incredible opportunity leading up to the release of “Culture II” to cement themselves amongst the elite of hip-hop and rap. Unfortunately, they disappointed greatly. The charisma they cultivated starting last winter doesn’t feel as great anymore, as Takeoff is the best performing member of the group. Quavo’s hooks have gotten lifeless, and Offset, despite several good verses, seems to be trying for the same sound with every verse.
Nobody needs 105 minutes of Migos in one sitting, but that’s what they gave their fans. With most songs lasting about five minutes, the 24-track project feels unnecessary. It is reminiscent of their older mixtapes, especially because of the way the trio seems to just follow a formula for much of the album.
One of their main draws is their catchiness, and they delivered on tracks like “Narcos,” “Stir Fry,” which was previously released as a single, and “BBO,” featuring 21 Savage. “Narcos” is highlighted by a great verse from Offset. He opens strong and flows with the beat to perfection, performing bars like “Skip to my Lou with a pack in the cat.” Never would I have guessed that a rapper singing “Skip to my Lou” would be a highlight, but Offset pulls it off with infectious vigor, and also bodies the hook: “Trappin’ like a narco / Got dope like Pablo / Cutthroat like Pablo.” The song features a great guitar sample, reminiscent of Big Sean’s “Who’s Stopping Me,” or Joey Bada$$’s “Front and Center.”
“BBO” features a strong chorus from 21 Savage, where the Atlanta rapper comes in with dark, brooding energy. Unfortunately, Quavo comes in next and kills the momentum. The next good verse comes around three minutes in, and Takeoff is too late to bring it back to life. The production is also a disappointment; even the legendary Kanye couldn’t make this a thoroughly listenable song.
Another example of Quavo’s shortcomings on this project is in “Walk It Talk It.” Having Drake as a feature is usually a cheat-code to a successful song, but Quavo ruins it by repeating the bar “Walk it like I talk it,” 16 times at the start. At best, this is a satirical jab at Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang,” and at worst, it’s a failed imitation.
“White Sand” is another track that could have utilized its features better. With the big names of Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, and Big Sean, it seems like it would be difficult to make this a boring track, but other than a nice chorus from Scott, it’s a track to forget. Although its run time of 3 minutes and 23 seconds is better than most other songs on the album, it still feels longer than necessary. Cutting out the Big Sean feature would definitely help.
“Stir Fry” remains a banger. This is probably Quavo’s best performance on the album, and while that may not say much, it is objectively one of his better ones in the past few years as well. He attacks the hook with dexterous flow and charisma, and the supporting roles fulfilled by Offset and Takeoff are performed well, as both play with their delivery, creating a purely fun product. Offset boasts, “Gon’ whip it, intermission, let the birds fly / I get money, tunnel vision through my third eye / In that skillet, watch me flip it like it’s Five Guys.” It has deservedly been named the official song for NBA All-Star weekend, so it’s going to be fun to see where the NBA takes it from here.
The video, released Jan. 27, is what makes it most interesting. The first half of the video is exactly what you would expect from the trio, with lots of drugs and money, and an appearance from Pharrell, but it gets interesting in the last few minutes. The Migos start to duel with what appears to be a rival gang, attacking and defeating the leader of this other gang with kung fu. The scene ends with some weirdly timed torture to a different member of the gang. It’s confusing and leaves the viewer with some questions, but it is absolutely worth a watch.
The album is concluded with “Culture National Anthem,” a beautifully produced track that just isn’t as supported by the vocal performances of the members. It seems as though Quavo and Takeoff try too hard to slow down to the beat and move away from their comfort zone in the process, creating a product that leaves a little something to be desired.
At their best on this album, Migos delivered with their punchy hooks and earworming vocals, but that didn’t happen often—an odd feat despite the unnecessary run time of the album. Most of the project was spent with repetitive and unimaginative vocals, so for Migos fans worldwide, here’s to hoping they have a better 2018 than the way they kicked it off.