If the release of “Bad and Boujee” toward the end of 2016 didn’t solidify Migos as the top curator of the sounds dominating hip-hop, then the release of Culture in January of last year definitely did. Culture debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200, the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and the Canadian Albums Chart. By July it was certified platinum. It was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 60th Grammy Awards, alongside Kendrick Lamar’s Damn and Jay Z’s 4:44. When the release of its sequel, Culture II, was announced, the hip-hop community was faced with the question: How were the Atlanta rap kings going to follow it up?
As it turns out, they couldn’t. As a project, the 24-track sequel is pretty underwhelming. The majority of the songs follow the same formula and lack the magnetism and charisma Migos claims its stake on. The bulk of the album just sounds like the throwaways from Culture. The lengthiness and linearity of the album make sitting through the entire thing feel more like work than enjoyment. And it’s not groundbreaking or rewarding work—it’s more like the busy work your high school teachers gave you to keep you occupied.
Culture II is more of a playlist than an album, and it doesn’t achieve the broader net appeal of a longer project, such as Drake did with Views and More Life, for example. Make no mistake, there are some great songs on Culture II. When Migos drops 24 tracks, a few are bound to hit home. The second single from the album, “Stir Fry,” released in December, really stands out in contrast to the rest of Culture II. Armed with the production genius of Pharrell, “Stir Fry” features a refreshingly different rhythm and flow from Migos’s other work. Its syncopated beat and synth-reliant instrumentation give it an enticing energy.
More standouts from the album include “Gang Gang,” an auto-tuned gem that opens up with Takeoff, typically the least recognized member of Migos, wondering “Would you love me if I ran away?” This track kicks off a more serious and somber tone than Migos’s usual confident and cocky style. Takeoff is reminding us here that the Migos’s members are, in fact, human and do experience emotion behind their shades and gold, a sentiment Quavo quickly follows up with singing “Whole lotta gang shit gang gang gang,” on what could be a pop-hit instrumental. You have to love these guys.
“White Sand” boasts the most features on the album with Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, and Big Sean. Though at times this song can be a little cluttered and crowded, Big Sean’s verse and the hook by Scott and Quavo hold up its weight. “Made Men,” which comes second to last on the track list, really should have been the intro. On a heavily R&B-influenced beat, Takeoff addresses the audience, “Hello world, hi. / I would like to welcome you to the Migos show.” The rest of the beat necessitates more in-depth lyricism that, unfortunately, wouldn’t coincide with the Migos brand. Nevertheless, the change of pace is intriguing and offers an example of the different things Migos needs to be doing to continue its role as the top proponents of the culture its last two albums glorify.
The best track on the album is “Notice Me,” a slow-tempo beat that features an incredible hook from the master of incredible hooks, Post Malone, and excellent verses from both Takeoff and Offset. This isn’t the radio hit that Post had with Quavo in “Congratulations,” but it is proof that the two artists’ sounds are great together.
If you’re in any way aware of the world around you, Migos is inescapable. Since its rise to the forefront of trap music it has consistently been putting out content that assures at least some part of the world’s gaze on it. And it’s been working. But with its third studio album in three years, one with a colossal tracklist and much of the same sound that took them to the top, at what point does all this content oversaturate the genre? At many moments on the album you can feel Migos clinging on, seemingly desperately, to the same methods, the same lyrical subject, and the same ad lib-filled group flow that it has become known for. To invoke the wisdom of Gucci Mane, maybe Migos is getting lost in its own sauce.
Culture II isn’t exactly a flop, but it certainly doesn’t hold itself up to the standard Migos has set for itself.
Featured Image by Motown Records