lmost a year after their sophomore album, “Culture,” debuted to much acclaim, Migos, the Georgia-based hip-hop trio, released their latest album, “Culture II.”
Becoming the subject of speculation inside of the rap community, the project was first teased in June 2017, with a handful of singles being released this past December and January.
Southern hip-hop had never been my favorite subgenre of rap; most trap music, save for that of Gucci Mane, seemed one-dimensional and uninspired to me. However, “Culture,” specifically songs like “T-Shirt” and “Bad and Boujee,” opened my ears to the region.
The distinctive voices and styles of Quavo, Takeoff and Offset — the three members of Migos — blended with the darker aura of a trap beat sounded fresh and intuitive, qualities southern rap previously lacked.
Thus, my expectations for “Culture II” were not merely high, but overinflated. I was almost disappointed that the first track, “Higher We Go,” was largely a generic trap song, with little lyrical substance (unless you consider lyrics about illegal substances substance).
During my initial listen, many of the songs fell short of my expectations in the same manner: more mindless drivel about drugs and cars, and more repetitive and uninspired hooks.
However, a few tracks stood out, namely the December single “Stir Fry,” with its active, pop-like beat, allusions to southern food and cooking and a hook by Quavo.
I finished listening entirely unimpressed, but gave a couple sections of the album a second try. Remarkably, I wasn’t nearly as disappointed the second time around, with adjusted expectations and more clarity on the direction of the music.
Migos hasn’t done anything revolutionary or groundbreaking, nor have they created a masterpiece that will eventually be used as a time capsule for trap music. Nonetheless, “Culture II” has its appeals, both to those with more refined ears for rap and newer listeners who are getting their first taste of the genre.
The first few songs, including the January single “Superstars” and “Walk It Talk It,” are largely similar to the rest of Migos’ discography, with one member singing the hook and rapping a verse and the other two rotating in for a few bars of their own. Quavo leads the two tracks, and while his hooks and lyricism aren’t exactly ingenius, the more unique beats on the two tracks compliment his tangy southern accent well. The features on the first few tracks, being Drake and 21 Savage, both blend well with Migos, but neither was particularly spectacular.
However, the highlights of the album are in the middle, being “CC,” “Stir Fry” and “Too Much Jewelry.” Gucci Mane makes an appearance on the first of those; his unique voice lends itself well to the more traditional trap beat. “Too Much Jewelry” features veteran producer Zaytoven on the beat, with Takeoff rapping the majority of both the hook and verses.
The latter portion of the album, while nothing special, is equally as solid as the first part. The premier single of the album, “MotorSport,” features a pair of female vocalists in Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. The project’s third-to-last track, “Made Men,” is another standout, with a relaxed, upbeat vibe, not dissimilar to that of R&B-influenced hip-hop.
The question surrounding the album is not whether the various standouts make it a success, but rather whether the remaining generic, uninspired filler tracks drag the album down.
Migos, one of the most prolific acts in hip-hop, needs to focus less on proving themselves to everybody, but rather show the industry whether or not they will take trap music in a new direction.
In a way, “Culture II” does that, probably exactly in the manner Migos wants it to. The album oozes Atlanta vibes and conveys the feelings and emotions of a hustler in a way only rap could. In a a genre where the best music follows a strict formula, the group does a solid job of stepping in a new direction while staying true to their culture.