“STRAIGHT OUT THE JUNGLE / THIS REAL RAP NO MUMBLE.” This line, exclaimed by Quavo on the new Culture II jam “Narcos,” more or less explains the massive appeal of Migos. In a popular rap scene that’s grown increasingly simplistic over the years when it comes to vocals, this trio has shown how fun music can be when its made by three friends with big personalities, using language like a playground and stacking words on top of each other in witty fashion. Their rat-tat-tat triple-time flows, ecstatic ad-libs, and infectious family-member chemistry make them stand out from the pack in high style.
Exactly one year after their album Culture elevated them to superstardom (following years of refining their skills on cult-favorite mixtapes), the good times keep rolling for these Beatles of the trap with Culture II. It’s a blockbuster sequel in every way- an overstuffed reworking of the same ideas, not quite as good as the original…but still irresistible. Somewhere within this 24-song behemoth, there’s an excellent 13-to-16 track album scattered about. It’s just up to us to sort through the filler and find it.
Though it’s admittedly hard to see any songs here matching the huge success of “Bad and Boujee,” “T-Shirt,” or “Slippery,” there are plenty of highlights to be found. Let’s break this album down Migo by Migo…
The charismatic star of the group glides through his verses and hooks as effortlessly as one could expect throughout Culture II. The amount of anthemic force he can put behind a line like “Play no games, no 2K / Pull out the coupe like Bruce Wayne” is truly astounding. “Open It Up” might just be a carbon copy of “Deadz” off Culture, but Quavo deliriously shouting things like “BLESSINGS, CAME FROM, GOD (WOO!) / HAD TO, BEAT THE, ODDS (BEAT IT!)” over the beat’s epic horns is impossible not to love.
It’s not just the emphatic vocals- what’s most surprising here is the impressive work he puts in behind the boards. On “Autopilot (Huncho On The Beat),” he’s clearly proud of his creation, and he should be- the song just goes hard. In fact, some of the most inspired production choices on the album come from Sir Quavious- the fitting Latin guitar strumming throughout the aforementioned “Narcos;” the saxophone riffs on the 2 Chainz-assisted “Too Playa.” These songs are great enough on their own to OFFSET the unnecessary generic ones. Hey, speaking of…
If this guy’s scorching-hot run of recent guest verses wasn’t enough, then maybe his performance on Culture II will convince you that he’s the best bar-for-bar rapper of the three Migos. Every time Quavo finesses his way through his half-sung vocals and passes the mic, you can then always count on Offset to rip up the beat with his mean triplet flow. “Narcos” is a prime showcase- “Skip to my Lou with a pack in the cat / Jiffy, lube, where the bricks where they at? / Drippin, ooze, the Patek all wet / Birds in the trap they ain’t leavin’ out the nest.” Do these lines make any sense? Nope, unless you speak the Migo’ lingo. Do they sound dope regardless? Yup.
Forever the unsung hero of the group, Takeoff once again proves his worth here. His deep, gruff voice is memorable and provides the best ad-libs (MAMA!), plus he’s more versatile than given credit for. Take for example “Gang Gang,” the smoothest song here (it sounds like it belongs on Future’s HNDRXX album). It’s not Quavo but Takeoff who nimbly sings the catchy hook. Another nice one is “Too Much Jewelry,” featuring Takeoff shining over Zaytoven’s signature flutes-and-pianos production (shoutout to Quavo’s hilarious vocoder interlude, though). Hey Takeoff, why were you left off “Bad and Boujee”?
The guest list for this marathon of a party is worth mentioning because the songs that include them are some of the best. The addictive “BBO” gets help from a 21 Savage hook and a clean horn sample from Kanye; Drake does his thing on the potential hit “Walk It Talk It;” Travis Scott, Big Sean, and Ty Dolla $ign all come through for “White Sand;” “CC” is a solid banger with Gucci, and same goes for the Post Malone ditty “Notice Me.”
Elsewhere, other tracks with no outside assistance are very hit-or-miss; we certainly could have done without the weak opener “Higher We Go” or the rote “Flooded,” among others. These unspecial filler songs just manage to dilute the product and make the album drag on and on. I guess the name of Migos’ label, Quality Control, doesn’t apply to their process of editing tracklists. SAD!
Overall, at the peak of their newfound fame, Migos have for the most part given us what we wanted and expected out of them. Culture II is genuinely thrilling modern trap music for the majority of its enormous running time. However, it loses points for resembling a bloated mixtape rather than an artfully assembled album. You know…like Culture.