Quavo, Takeoff and Offset are the biggest thing in hip-hop right now, and they’ve brought $50,000 to their NME interview. Leonie Cooper gets high on their own supply of success – and their weed
I’ve got some serious dry mouth and a severe case of the munchies. It can only mean one thing: I am really quite high. This is the unsurprising side effect of sitting at close quarters with three of America’s most prestigious weed smokers and about 10 of their mates, all of whom seem equally enthusiastic about the benefits of a Tuesday afternoon dose of THC.
We’re in a swanky New York studio with world-dominating trap trio Migos, but you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re at a warehouse party. Giant blunts are being passed around like candy as the snake-hipped Quavo, Offset and Takeoff pick outfits for NME’s cover shoot. They’ve brought a couple of Louis Vuitton cases filled with diamond-encrusted jewellery, including a silver chain with a huge sparkly $75,000 Yoda face dangling from it. Oh, and there are also stacks of $100 bills knocking around, which add up to $50,000 in total – spare change for Migos, who buy brand-new Bentleys as casually as you or I might buy Digestive biscuits.
“Can we get some tunes on?” asks Quavo as he peruses a table covered with Valentino trainers that average £505 a pair. The sonic innovators’ de facto leader and production whizz, he’s also taken to co-directing the group’s videos. If you’re looking for Migos’ mastermind, he’s your guy. “This great album came out just the other day,” he suggests. He is, of course, talking about ‘Culture II’, Migos’ 24-track, 106-minute epic. Critics have said the new release is a “data dump”, but its stone-cold bangers have seen it rocket to the top of the US Billboard album chart. Whatever you think of it, its hugeness can’t be denied – in length and cultural impact. Drake, Cardi B – who is engaged to Offset – Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj all make guest appearances, and there are production cameos from Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. As opening track ‘Higher We Go’ booms out of the meaty PA system that’s been ushered into the studio for Migos’ arrival, the group nod in approval.
Migos are the biggest thing in hip-hop right now, so it’s no shock that getting an audience with them has been hard work. We eventually meet the family – Offset is Quavo’s cousin and Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle – after a month of cancelled plans. First we’re supposed to join them in their hometown of Atlanta, but that doesn’t happen. Then the interview is shifted to Los Angeles as they add the finishing touches to ‘Culture II’. That doesn’t happen either. Next, it’s moved to New York ahead of the Grammy Awards. And yep, you guessed it: that’s scuppered too. We finally get our chance two days after the Grammys, where the trio were nominated for Best Rap Album for 2017’s ‘Culture’ and Best Rap Performance for the song that catapulted them to superstardom a year and a half ago and which defines their flashy, laid-back flow – the irrepressible ‘Bad And Boujee’, which is currently hovering around 614 million YouTube views.
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So sure, they might be five hours late, but they’re actually here. It’s a miracle. But like herding particularly baked cats, much wrangling has to take place in order to get them onto a sofa to talk. First they have to eat some pizza. Then some chicken from Nas’s very own chain has to be delivered. And of course, those blunts won’t roll themselves. Once sat down, their responses are an unpredictable selection of shouted-out bars from their own songs, inspirational quotes, deafening silence, computer game noises, immediate shutdowns, passionate eloquence and – in one of many moments of utter madness – a sound not unlike a private jet taking off. In a world full of media-trained, people-pleasing artists, their erratic nature is refreshing, if somewhat maddening. They are a meme come to life, three guys living the absolute dream and giving not one single f**k.
When I ask why the new album’s quite so long, Takeoff casually starts beatboxing as Quavo half-raps, “It’s the king of clout. It’s the realest s**t that never was wrote. The Hot Mamba 24. The greatest piece of art that you ever witnessed in this era todaaay.” Which, y’know, doesn’t technically answer the question, but certainly gives you a sense of the scope of their ambitions and easy confidence. If hip-hop is all about braggadocio, then Migos are Rocky, Bruce Lee and Kanye West rolled into one. Another thing they’re certain of is that ‘Culture II’ should not be judged against its predecessor, ‘Culture’. “We don’t compare our beautiful, monumental two pieces together,” explains Quavo. “Like, I can’t compare this ring to this ring,” he adds, flashing yet more expensive jewellery in NME’s direction.
Despite their faith in ‘Culture’ and ‘Bad And Boujee’, neither won at the Grammys, losing out to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ and ‘HUMBLE.’ “They cheated us,” says Offset as I ask if they had a good time at the ceremony. “There was nothing bigger than the f**king ‘Culture’ album this whole last year!” adds a disgruntled Quavo. “They’re scared to handle the three-headed monster… Ooh! [But] we’ll be back next year.” His mumble then becomes a yell: “WE’LL BE F**KING BACK NEXT YEAR.”
Formed in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville, Migos released their first mixtape in 2011 but it was with 2013’s ‘Versace’, a fabulously flashy ode to designer fashion and conspicuous consumption, that the world started to take notice, not least because of a Drake co-sign and remix. Bigger, bolder tunes such as ‘Fight Night’ followed – all typified by what has come to be known as ‘the Migos flow’, copied by everyone from Chance The Rapper on ‘All We Got’ to Kendrick Lamar on ‘DNA’ – as did controversy.
In 2015 – the same year they released their debut album ‘Yung Rich Nation’ – all three were arrested on drugs and firearms charges, with Offset spending eight months in custody. Then there are the numerous accusations of homophobia, most recently after Offset rapped, “I cannot vibe with queers” on fellow Atlanta artist YFN Lucci’s track ‘Boss Life’. A half-arsed apology followed, with Offset stating, “To me that ‘queer’ I don’t mean someone who’s gay. I mean lame people who film you, post it and stalk you. Lingo that means strange or odd.” Hmm. Any chance to hold him to account for his comment, though, is nixed by Migos’ label, who tell us the group will refuse to answer questions about homophobic comments or run-ins with the law.
I chance my arm and ask instead about their drug-related lyrics. Has the death of Lil Peep, who overdosed on fentanyl and Xanax in November 2017, made them reassess their own lyrics about prescription drugs? Surely a group who have a track called ‘Designer Drugs’, which sees Quavo repeating the word “drugs” 16 times in the intro before admitting “I fell in love with the drugs / I think I’m a addict / Percocet, molly and Xanax”, a group who named themselves after a slang word for a house where drugs are made and sold, a group who are literally smoking a massive blunt in front of me, will be open to discussing the topic. No such luck. Offset immediately shuts me down. “We don’t talk about drugs. No comment. It shouldn’t be in the article at all.” As we take in another lungful of secondhand weed smoke, I start thinking about the box of doughnuts the photographer’s bought with him to use in the shoot.
What they are willing to discuss is culture, and why they’ve named their past two albums in its honour. “Culture defines a new generation, a new sound of music, new change, a diversity of fans, all in one party, one event and they all share good-ass music,” says Quavo. “Culture is one colour and it’s everybody’s colour.” Can we, then, expect a ‘Culture III’? “The culture goes forever and we will never RIP the culture. You’re trying to figure out if the culture will live on through one, two, three, four, five, six – that we don’t know, we will make you WAIT ON IT. But the culture will not die, the culture will live forever.”
In their music as in the interviews, Migos are not about doing things by the book. On last year’s ‘Get Right Witcha’ they simply stated their manifesto: “Middle finger up, f**k the system”. Offset breaks down the Migos approach to life. “You can do it your own way,” he says. Quavo agrees. “It’s about expressing yourself. F**k the programme. F**k the script. F**k the way it’s supposed to be done. Do it your creative way.” Bending and rewriting the rules – the next step in their haywire approach to world domination – is already in place.
“I look at us as a business,” says Takeoff. So where will Migos be branching out to next? “You can branch out, but you want to beat them out,” says Quavo, before revealing that film is where Migos have their hearts set. “Real theatre movies, with real top A-list actors and s**t like that,” says Takeoff. Is something already in the pipeline? “Shh, you about to spill the beans right out of the can,” he says, pouring an imaginary tin of Heinz’s finest all over the floor. “No spilling.”
Before we see Migos: The Movie, they’re likely to be back in the UK, after hectic scenes greeted their one-off London show in April last year. “We love London, shout out to London,” says Quavo. “I like the rough part too – shout out to Brixton. We pulled up to the club over there. S**t get crazy up in there!” How crazy? “Super-lit. Everybody mobbed.” Do you mind getting mobbed? “I love that!” “Love that,” echoes Takeoff. Something else they love is hearing their signature sound replicated by other artists such as Drake and Kanye. Rather than getting pissed, the boys are all for the omnipresence of the Migos flow. “I love it, it makes me happy inside, because I know we’re influencing and they’re inspired by us,” says Takeoff. “The greatest!” chips in Quavo.
Yet for all the bravado and posturing, Migos aren’t just about fast cars and expensive necklaces – they’re also about giving back to their community. Last year Quavo and Takeoff filled a truck with 700 turkeys and gave them away for free in the parking lot of an Atlanta supermarket and children’s daycare centre. “You gotta give back – it’s only right to give back to the people who need it and are less fortunate,” explains Takeoff. “You gotta bless others so you can get blessed. Keep it real.” An enthusiastic Quavo adds, “Turkey giveaway, we’re giving them turkey! Brrr! Yeahhh!” They’ve also launched a campaign to raise half a million dollars for the American Cancer Society. “We hands on,” says Quavo. Sure, they might be high as f**k, but in some ways their feet are still firmly on the ground.