Asked recently to name his favourite rappers, Migos head honcho Quavo rattled off the following list: Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Gucci Mane – before impishly throwing himself into the mix. It’s not the first time Migos, the ebullient Atlanta rap trio that consists of Quavo, his cousin Offset and nephew Takeoff, have been referenced in the same breath as all-time greats: they’ve gone down in online folklore as The Beatles of their generation.
This follow-up to 2017’s rapturously received ‘Culture’ sees them cement their reputation for musical innovation, sly humour and louche delivery as they develop the short, triplet rhymes that have become their signature sound. The album is 24 tracks long, indicating the seemingly endless supplies of inspiration that the group appear to have harnessed since 2015’s Yung Rich Nation stamped their passports as superstars-in-waiting. The basic template is often rooted in the Atlanta sound – stuttering snares, austere production and percussive vocal onomatopoeia – which enables them to deviate intro experimentation while remaining accessible. Not only that, but the guestlist is positively stuffed with stars: Drake, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj and Gucci Mane himself all lend a hand.
‘BBO (Bad Bitches Only)’ combines brass arrangements and an understated gospel vocal line, while the pensive ‘Emoji a Chain’ bows out with a sleepy, languid, Eastern-influenced guitar solo. These moments are a reminder of the quiet amounts of weird that Migos have managed to smuggle into the mainstream. Their commercial calling card, 2013’s ‘Versace Versace’, was dismissed by as some as a trivial, superficial ode to materialism, but on ‘Culture II’ they prove – in typically aloof fashion – that their influences are as varied as they are sophisticated. There’s a Kanye West collaboration in the vaults, too, waiting for release, so there’s more than enough gas in the tank to ensure that the Migos machine continues to churn out the hits.
The standout is perhaps ‘Stir Fry’, a jubilant boom-bap banger that’s adorned with hissing hi-hat, marching synth, shrill whistle sound effects and the group’s unmistakably swift, undulating flow. Offset’s fiancé Cardi B delivers perhaps the album’s single most impressive bar, flouncing into ‘MotorSport’ to joke that “I turn Offset on”. Well, Migos are firing on all cylinders here, their new record a lush, chaotic patchwork that pops with primary colours. The fab three have done it again.