Migos – CULTURE {Album Review} // 02.03.2017

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The scholarly definition of this 7 letter word can take on several different forms depending on the context in which it is used.
  1. The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively;
  2. A refined understanding or appreciation of a particular subject;
  3. The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups;
  4. The attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group;

When boiled down to an amalgamated state, these various interpretations firmly define culture as a way of life. It is, in many ways, like an inheritance from our ancestors of yesteryear. Each succeeding generation adds a piece of garnish or flair to spice up the traditional artifact while keeping the core sentiments intact. Culture is an expression of one’s self that purposefully or inadvertently establishes an identity.  Whether minimalistic or grandiose in nature, personal style, cinematography, and shared ideologies are examples of ways that like-minded individuals gravitate towards each other.

From Left to Right – Offset, Quavo, Takeoff; Picture Source

A common vernacular of a tight-knit community that may not be readily understood by outsiders exhibits a strong type of personal relationship. It’s a deep-rooted connection that may be hard to explain to others unless you “get it.” The world (at times) is a beautiful place filled with a myriad of different ethnicities that are rich in thousands of years of heritage. One of the best things about life, especially in this modern age, is finding out more information about a culture. One could discover ancient hieroglyphics and become familiar with Egyptian history with a few clicks of a mouse. One could also experience authentic Halal food for the first time even though they’re thousands of miles away from the Middle East. Strangers can become relatives relatively quick when geeking out over a set of common interests. Music has always been a paramount component of culture in a multitude of ways. New and eccentric fashion trends are spawned by the boldest of artists; Timeless dance rituals are influenced by the most unique of rhythmic sounds; countless amounts of verbiage are inserted into the lexicon annually –  the list of reasons could go on for ages. Music has been one of the top unifiers of human beings across the globe for quite some time, but even more so during the period of 2000-and-now. Wide spread accessibility to different cultures through the outlet of music can spread awareness to large swathes of people that have not been exposed to a particular world.

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Black Excellence is not limited to entertainment; there are many African-Americans that are Doctors (not enough), Attorneys (not enough), and CEOs (again, not enough), but to say that we ain’t some creative mothaf**kas would be a remiss oversight. In Pop Culture in general, many trends have been cultivated for mass consumption, only to be harvested and diluted by the mainstream until it’s stripped down to an unrecognizable figure. It’s an unfortunate theft, but, as we’ve been doing for centuries by turning lemons to lemonade, we cut our losses and move on to the next creative concept.

All the fresh styles always start off as a good little hood thing
Look at blues, rock, jazz, rap
Not even talkin about music
Everything else too
By the time it reach Hollywood it’s over
But it’s cool
We just keep it goin and make new s**t
 – Andre 3000 “Hollywood Divorce”

Family is also a large component of culture. Kinship can be through blood relation or a bond that’s been solvent for a plethora of years. No matter how successful an individual or a clique may become, their indigent roots should never be forgotten. The close family members that have been around since day one will enjoy the fruits of labor the most because they understood the struggle en-route to notable success. Many times, a form kinship can develop from a heighten sense of pride for people from a particular region.

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Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, has had an incredible run, musically and cinematically, over the past few years. 2 critically acclaimed albums, being casted in reboots for 2 gigantic movie franchises (Spiderman and Star Wars), and he developed a highly lauded network TV dramedy, Atlanta, which debuted in Fall of 2016. The TV show examined the realistic purview of a rapper and his manager, sans the glam and glitz, trying to make it out of the struggle. This dramatized portrayal pulls the viewer into the cultural epicenter of Atlanta by not only showing actual scenery from the city but also celebrating the rich music scene of the area with a majority of the soundtrack being from the Dirty South. The most notable cameo that paid homage to the current hip-hop scene in Atlanta came in Episode 3 when all 3 members of MigosQuavo, Takeoff, and Offset – made an appearance.

Donald Glover recently won 2 Golden Globes for contributions to Atlanta and did not forget his roots when accepting the award.

Migos have been poppin’ and extremely relevant in the hip-hop culture since 2013 but the level importance of Donald Glover‘s shout-out at the Golden Globes cannot be downplayed. By simply mentioning the song to a wide audience of people outside of this cultural bubble, streaming numbers for Bad and Boujee skyrocketed 243% on Spotify virtually overnight. Gambino‘s awards show co-sign also propelled the lead single from Migos‘ 2nd album C U L T U R E to the Number One spot on the Billboard charts, the first for the trio “coming straight from Nawf Atlanta!” This album is a facet of Black Excellence personified, unapologetically on display for the masses to see.  Braggadocious, gaudy, and boastful are adjectives that come to mind when listening to the lyrics on C U L T U R E. Paired with Trap productions from notable beatsmiths such as Metro Boomin, Zaytoven and several affiliates from 808 Mafia (Purps, DY, and Trey Pounds), this high-octane presentation will be sure to amplify the mood in any setting. The unwavering confidence exhibited throughout the entire album is strangely motivational; it can transform your mentality into a bulletproof cloak to the point where you feel invincible.

The second leadoff single, “T-Shirt” is a great example of the aforementioned description. My god, Takeoff‘s brilliance on this track is truly something to revere. There’s just something incredible to behold with his controlled aggression in his cadence as he annunciated every syllable with the power and consistency of a 3 shot burst machine gun. You think to yourself that he’s going to break the pattern at any moment and go full berserker mode like he normally does, but it doesn’t happen. The result is another innovate stylistic approach in the ever so progressive sound of Migos as a collective. Another highly respectable thing about “T-Shirt” (besides the cinematic masterpiece of a music video) is how they really modified the roots of their ancestors. The beat is a slowed down edit to Dem Franchise Boyz‘s 2005 Dirty South anthem, “White Tee.”

An ode to the predecessors while advancing the sonic aura of the culture is something to respect about how Migos approached this album by staying true to the name, C U L T U R E throughout. Not surprisingly, family, mostly brotherhood, is a major theme on the hour long project. The MOMMA ad-lib is definitely one of the most hilarious lyrical accentuates out there but it’s not always for comedic effect. Even though their subject matter about women isn’t always…uhh, for lack of a better word, respectful, one can tell that they place a high value on the advice that was given by the women that raised them.

Mama told me stay strong, grandma told me stay on
Now she looking down, throwin’ blessings  – Quavo “Out Your Way”

Similar to Swae Lee from Rae Sremmurd, there have been suggestions that the most notable member of the group, Quavo, should pursue a solo career, or at least release a solo CD on his own. I vehemently disagree with that sentiment…for now. This Triumverant works best as a 3-headed dragon that eviscerates the competition with their witty quotable, bombastic flows and overall vertigo-esq style that keeps the listener off balance. Migos are on the ascent towards superstardom and the group should capitalize off of the joint momentum created by C U L T U R E.

From The FADER’s January 2017 Interview:

It’s three of us, so everything we make goes through a process. We’ll all throw something out there, and we’ll work together so everybody get their opinion in. We got three different styles. It’s way better than having one.  – Takeoff

Quavo Ratatouille glides in with his auto-tuned styles for the majority hooks and is featured on every song but for the most part, each member is given time to shine on at least one particular track. For Offset, “Bad and Boujee” was literally his child. “I recorded that song myself at home, in my basement.”  Whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo! may be the the most hype 5-word sequence of all time.

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The standout verse from C U L T U R E, taking into consideration the flow, lyrics, and pairing with the beat has to go to the Finals MVP of the album: Takeoff on “Deadz.” This Cardo-produced song featuring 2 Chainz caught a lot of flak because of lack of energy on the track but I completely disagree. The case could be made for “Deadz” being one of the top tracks on the entire album. It’s understandable that one would be underwhelmed by the lineup on paper compared to the actual product, but Takeoff‘s section is undeniably one of the most premier displays of talent on the entire album. Quavo and 2 Chainz kind of saunter into to their respective 1st and 2nd verses but then the beat gets some extra percussion and hi-hats as Takeoff makes his entrance and boom:

Hop out the bed and I’m countin’ them faces
I jump out the whip and them b****es start faintin’
No twenties or fifties, just Benjamin Franklins
Block on lock, call me Kurt Angle
I keep the banger, my brother, my partner
Don’t f**k with no strangers, they tryna get famous
I put the hood on my back
When these n****s couldn’t do nothing but love it
But n****s still hated
No they ain’t real but these n****s gon’ fake it
If they got a problem, my n****s gon’ straighten it
N****s debatin’, they hatin’, they plottin’, they waitin’
They want my ice, tell ’em come take it
Have people tell me that I couldn’t make it
Now I’m doin’ shows outta state in the nations
My momma told me I stay humble but don’t be too ready
You gotta have patience

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Black Excellence is truly a joy to see thriving in the extremely turbulent times we are all witnessing in 2017. Atlanta has been a juggernaut in the representation of not just hip-hop culture, but Black Culture as well. It’s very easy for a curmudgeon to sit back and nitpick at some of lyrics and production choices. There are some lulls here and there and subject matter gets repetitive at times, but that does not take much away from the overall quality of this project. C U L T U R E is a trip. An awesome journey through the Cartier Lenses of 3 brothers from Atlanta. Technically, Quavo is Takeoff‘s uncle and Offset is Quavo‘s cousin, but they grew up very close to each other. Culture is about establishing an identity, staying true to your name and remaining confident throughout. Creating new trends is something that Migos has done since “Versace.” Right now, they are the culture.

Migos – C U L T U R E: 7/10

Favorites: T-Shirt, Call Casting, What’s The Price, Big on Big, Deadz

Least Favorites: Slippery (ft. Gucci Mane), Get Right Witcha

Do it for the culture
They gon’ bite like vultures



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