When Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino, was called on stage to receive his Golden Globe on behalf of the show Atlanta for best TV series, people did not expect what he would say next. Donald did not take the conventional route of thanking his parents or making a political statement for unity and inclusion. Instead Donald said, “I really want to thank the Migos, not for being in the show, but for making ‘Bad and Boujee.’ Like that’s the best song…ever.” He would later go on to call the Migos “the Beatles of this generation,” high praise for the Atlanta rap trio who have been pioneering the new wave of trap music.
To say that the Migos have been “hot”’ lately would be an understatement. In a matter of four months their chart-topping single “Bad and Boujee” has reached platinum status and the group has amassed a cult-like following that stretches from places like Atlanta, Georgia to Lagos, Nigeria. More recently, a petition that reached 70,000 signatures appeared calling for the Migos to replace Lady Gaga for Super Bowl LI’s halftime show. All this hype has been meticulously building up to their sophomore album Culture, which was released in late January, and indeed it lived up to the hype.
The Migos were able to deliver on Culture, not because they conformed to convention or imitated what was already there, but because they were able to bring their unique and influential style to the forefront of music. Their high-energy, ad-libbing, and creative lyrics provide a dose of trap that is not only hard enough to be blasting in your car, but also rhythmically cohesive enough to dance to. No, listening to this album won’t get you thinking about institutional racism or poverty like a Kendrick or Cole album. However, that doesn’t mean that the Migos do not pack a punch when it comes to rhyming or lyrical ability.
When listening to the album you will think, “I don’t know what they just said but that was fire.” Regardless of the substance of their lyrics, the Migos use their word play to create outlandish but cohesive lines. As the chorus to their song ‘T-Shirt” goes, “Young n*gga poppin’ with a pocket full of cottage/Woah kemosabe, chopper aimin’ at your noggin/Had to cop the Audi, then the top I had to chop it/N*ggas pocket watchin’, so I gotta keep the rocket.” Sure the lyrics aren’t supposed to move you emotionally in any way but the exquisite rhyming variation of vowels should not go unnoticed.
To complement all these coded rhymes, the Migos perform acrobatics with their use of ad-libs to light up their lyrics in an almost comic book like fashion. Sprinkling sounds like “Skrrt, skrrt”, “Whoo” and “Dab” to the end of almost every bar in the album might seem grotesque but the Migos make it work, furthering the emphasis on every lyric and adding their own unique touch.
Apart from lyrics, Culture also does well in producing some vibrant and head-pounding beats. Working with Atlanta’s Metro Boomin and Zaytoven, two revolutionaries in trap music production, the Migos have been able to create a melodic vibe which flawlessly unites their lyrics with a trap sound.
The album doesn’t have a central theme or story per se. What Culture tries to accomplish is provide an almost autobiographical account of how the Migos “came from a Cup o’Noodles” to “dabbing in the latest fashion.” Throughout the album they continuously refer back to the days when they “used to trap by the Subway” to better encapsulate their success of feminine and monetary abundance. You shouldn’t take the Migos so seriously because they don’t take themselves seriously. They are minimalists in the most classical sense. They aren’t actively looking to carry the torch for hip-hop or trap music (even though they are inadvertently doing so). They just want to make good music and have fun while doing so, which is what makes ‘Culture’ such a flawless and exuberant album.
It would be a disservice to history to really put the Migos on the same level as the Beatles, but it would also be a disservice to music and culture to not recognize how they are leaving their mark on our generation. Their revolutionary sound has encapsulated this hip-hop generation into a carefree and joyful trance. When everything else going on in the world seems dull and depressing, ‘Culture’ epitomizes the essence of music in uplifting the soul into a euphoric sense of freedom.
Miles Liu is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]