Flash back to 2015 with me, and the Migos are in the midst of receiving surprisingly critical and negative commercial reception after the release of their debut studio album, Young Rich Nation. Offset was in jail for most of the time that Quavo and Takeoff were recording this album, leaving the album as a collection of tracks that they had recorded before Offset’s arrest and songs featuring only 2/3 of the Atlanta collective. It did not have a hit single that it could lean on, and because of the aforementioned difficulties regarding Offset’s legal situation, the project seemed choppy and unfinished. This flash back is not to slight the group. They still were one of the most influential rap groups in the country, had dominated the mixtape circuit, and gave America the Dab. However, it is intended to highlight how important their second studio album was to continuing the wave that they were on.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Migos have left us absolutely zero room for doubt. Culture is the North Atlanta trio’s most impressive and complete work to date. The album begins with DJ Khaled calling out and dismissing the haters and people that slept on the trio, while promising that “Culture album coming soon”. This is misleading hearing Khaled in this capacity, because this is not the kind of project that is trying to gain recognition through gimmick marketing or leaning on features. Instead, this album is a single-laced tour de force that brings out the true enjoyment the Migos really get from rapping.
After the intro, the album gets thrown in your face with smash hits “T-Shirt”, “Call Casting”, and “Bad and Boujee”. Each of these songs were released as singles before the album with all of them taking off, charting highly, and creating a ridiculous buzz around the album (all along with a Golden Globe Donald Glover shout out). What fans and consumers alike did not expect was that these three songs would be placed together in consecutive order on the album track list. Quavo shines rapping the hook on “Bad and Boujee”, the 2017 song of the year thus far. Then you add in Takeoff’s baritone poetry combined with Offset’s zigzagging rhymes, and you have a run of three songs that not only are incredibly popular, but show off each of the trio’s strengths in full capacity, a change in style from past projects.
After the intro and three hits to start the album, the Migos go straight back to the trap infused beats that originally made them famous. Drake-cosigned producer Murda Beatz brings this out in “Get Right Witcha”, which brings back the chant-style hooks that the consumers have been increasingly yearning for.
Zaytoven also has a profound impact on the sound and style of Culture, producing “Big on Big” and “Brown Paper Bag”. Zaytoven’s genius is on full display on these two tracks, with the budding superstars adlibbing and chop-rapping over the piano-infused synth beats. Zaytoven’s protégé Cassius Jay also jumps on the album’s closing track “Out Yo Way” and showcases what Zaytoven originally saw in him.
While Culture puts the triplet flow that they’ve made so famous on full display, the album is not without alternative influences. From the beginning of “Kelly Price”, you can tell that the Migos are exploring different sounds to expand their repertoire. They let Travis Scott take the reigns on production on this joint, and his influence is profound. The sleepy, trap beat he conjured up for this particular song is something that you might think was on his critically acclaimed Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight upon first listen. However, the normally amped up and in-your-face Migos slowed down for this beat while still maintaining the flow that their fans have come to adore, and then stepping aside for a brilliant verse from Travis himself. Along this same strain of unconventional influences on the album, Ricky Racks’ production on “What the Price” is brilliant. He brings an intense electric guitar riff to the song and booms over it with bass, leaving the beat vulnerable to be destroyed by each of the three Gwinett natives, which they do with no difficulty.
While this project is meant to showcase each of the three budding superstar’s strengths, there is no shortage of big name features and cosigns. 2Chainz hops on the Cardo-produced “Deadz” for a classic verse, and Gucci Mane continues his winning streak in to 2017 with his verse on “Slippery”. Pair these features with Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott appearances and you get the feel of what their label Quality Control is going for. Lil Uzi and Travis Scott are two of the most promising artists in the country in terms of sound, style, and wordplay, while Gucci and 2Chainz are the so-called gatekeepers of Atlanta rap. Having these four on the album gives them validation from everyone from the OG’s to the up-and-comers in the industry.
The Migos have made this album in a very special way. Culture is incredibly Atlanta in sound and style, but the way they put together their flow, production, and style appeals to people on a national and worldwide scale, as we saw with “Bad and Boujee”. While Quavo continues to be the front man of the group, Culture sees a drastic improvement from Offset and Takeoff. No longer are fans saying, “I wish there had been more Offset or Takeoff on this project”. Each artist is given their chance to shine, and each of them seize the opportunity with authority in their own unique way.
Come back with me one more time to January 29th. It’s a Saturday in Midtown Atlanta. The day after Culture dropped. It’s the number one album in the world. “Bad and Boujee” is the number one song in the world. It’s the first time the album will be played live in full. The city of Atlanta is brimming with excitement. Donald Glover’s show Atlanta had recently won a Golden Globe for Best TV Show, Gucci Mane has been on a tear of production since his release from prison, and the Atlanta Falcons are in their first Super Bowl since 1998. The city that has been so long associated with losing is finally getting its moment in the sun. The Migos come out to an absolutely packed out and loud crowd at Center Stage. The energy in the air is infectious, as the Migos are visibly going all out on every verse. They bring out Atlanta legend 2Chainz, newcomers Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert, along with virtuoso producer Zaytoven, who came out and shredded the key-taur for “Get Right Witcha” and “What the Price”. The roof finally comes off the place when they play “Bad and Boujee”. As they finished up playing and were thanking the crowd for coming out, there was a moment where they all looked out in to the crowd and a smile crept across each of their faces simultaneously. It was if they were flashing back to 2015 themselves, reflecting on how far they’ve come. They then left the stage, on to the next show and more tireless marketing and radio interviews and promotion. They don’t know that in a mere two days, the RIAA will certify “Bad and Boujee” as gold, and that projections show an estimated 100,000-120,000 sold copies of Culture in its first week, around 90,000 more than what was sold in the first week of Young Rich Nation’s release.
On a scale of one to ten, Culture comes in at a whopping 8.3. Check out the album on Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, or Tidal.