Takeoff, really, was always the best member of Migos, and that’s no mean feat for a group considered modern trap royalty. It became evident that after the Atlanta trio’s 2013 breakthrough hit ‘Versace’, that the group changed the sound of rap music forever. The fatal shooting of the 28-year-old rapper in Houston yesterday (November 1) is a huge loss to the scene, an understated, but unmissable member of the trio.
In Migos, it was clear that everyone had their role. While Quavo and Offset were able to command the spotlight with their more confident, bolshy personas – particularly on ultimate club banger ‘Hannah Montana’, where the former’s hooks shined – Takeoff often remained in the background, biding his time and waiting for his moment. He would make for the most consistently joyful and talented member.
As Quavo became considered the group’s melodic mastermind, Offset and Takeoff were pushed aside or forgotten. Despite the group’s first Billboard Number One in the US – 2016’s ‘Bad and Boujee’ – being powered by Offset’s hook and chorus, and Quavo’s “Dat Way” chant hitting in the clubs, Takeoff wasn’t to feature on the track at all; a reductive, sometimes cruel, narrative around the rapper would follow.
But Takeoff added extra pizzazz to his amigos melodic nature and choppy flows. The youngest member of the group, he showed maturity in his bars and the way he carried himself; an enigmatic man, to say the least. This narrative of Takeoff being the lesser member lit a fire in him: under-appreciated and now the underdog, he rose to acclaim for being quite the features king.
After being left off (again) on Calvin Harris’ breezy summer hit ‘Slide’, Harris instead put Takeoff on a different track, ‘Holiday’. Assisting R&B and hip-hop heavyweights Snoop Dogg and John Legend, he comfortably cruises on the ‘70s funk track with them and holds his place. Whilst other features might not have been as mainstream – collaborations with Ugly God and YFN Luccis, in particular – with the spotlight on or off him, he always delivered.
When NME interviewed the trio around the release of their fourth studio album, ‘Culture III’, Takeoff wasn’t the loudest of the bunch, but he was passionate about the respect and the band deserve for their innovation on the scene. “The world’s obviously caught amnesia, you know, and we want to know how they caught it”, he said when discussing the group’s success.
Best remind them, then. Having helped perfect the group’s triplet flow, in 2018 Takeoff dropped solo debut ‘The Last Rocket’. For the first time in Takeoff’s career, he commanded respect; he proved he could do it all by himself, and that he was the ‘chump’ of the group no more.
Before his own album, as a group Migos had already amassed three Top Two albums, four Top 10 singles, and two Grammy nominations — he was already an incredible talent. Following various solo albums, on the group’s 2021 reunion album ‘Culture III’, Takeoff’s verses were the most polished they’ve ever been, marking his place as the most consistent vocalist in the group.
This continued until recently. Following inter-group drama, Quavo and Takeoff released ‘Only Built For Infinity Links’ in October, a collaboration between the pair that saw Takeoff fully shine and pick up the slack of missing a key member. Here, at last, it felt that Takeoff finally got the respect he always deserved; the next, was to be truly better.
His underdog story was coming to its rightful conclusion, as clubbers and youngsters alike recognised his talent and where he was to go next. Just days before his death, Takeoff said that “it’s time to give me my flowers. I don’t want them when I ain’t here.” Instead, we’re now left with questions and dreams of what could have been.