Migos Stick to What They Know Best on ‘Culture II’

Following their successful breakout record “Culture” in January 2017, Atlanta trio Migos are looking to continue riding the wave of success with their highly-anticipated new album “Culture II.” They spared no expense this time around, with the new album coming in at a whopping 24 tracks and spanning over an hour-and-a-half. Much like their last go around, Quavo, Offset and Takeoff use common themes of wealth set to even more common moody trap beats.

One of the first singles the trio dropped from this project back in December was “Stir Fry.” The Pharrell-produced promo song was an unusual departure from their standard ATL sound. The famed producer injected elements of bounce and even a musicality that Migos’ tracks often forgo. This was particularly interesting after we heard the first single release in “MotorSport” featuring Offset’s wife Cardi B and Nicki Minaj earlier in the fall of 2017. This was the real Migos sound; pitter-patter rhymes, dark, moody production and a pounding trap beat. Though, herein lies the problem. Many fans took to social media to exclaim frustration with “Culture II” being a too closely aligned with their breakout album “Culture” from early last year. One fan tied many of his comrades viewpoints in one succinct Tweet by saying, “Migos been giving us the same song for 5 years.”

“Culture II” is so chock full of similar sounding tracks that it’s sometimes hard to recognize the big-name features. Drake drops in on “Walk It Talk It,” where he provides an utterly refreshing verse amidst an almost incessant chorus which repeats the song title over and over…and over. Kanye West, though with only co-production help, makes “BBO” only slightly more intriguing. It’s hard to tell what he contributed (possibly the background horn sample?), but overall the trio, alongside 21 Savage, showcase their limited lyrical vocabulary once again. The loaded “White Sand” sees Travis Scott, Big Sean and Ty Dolla $ign collectively compare themselves to Bruce Wayne. Similarly too does Quavo on the Gucci Mane-featured “CC” where he compares his green truck to the Riddler.

Substantively, well, there’s not much here. Lots and lots of talk about frozen wrists, Raris and drugs. But that’s just what Migos does. They make escapism music. Music that steers well away from thematic issues of substance and straight towards materialism and “vibes.” In fact, “Culture II” is all about the vibes. The South American-influenced (i.e. the cocaine-influenced) “Narcos” romanticizes high-capacity drug dealing through just enough Latin musicality. The Metro Boomin-produced “Emoji A Chain” strikes a similar tone (“Stuffin’ them bricks in the Tahoe”) to “Bad and Boujee,” which he also produced. Though, the trio’s sprinkle-style bars fit smoothly within the creases of Metro’s hi hats and snappy snares. The dreamy “Too Much Jewelry” uses piano and synths as a backdrop to Takeoff and Quavo as they boast about their obsession with, you guessed it, jewelry. The track does, surprisingly enough, end in a trippy Daft Punk-esque vocoder moment. But then the moment abruptly ends and you’re back to the same ol’.

Trap is a unique genre. Turnover is high, hits come and go and because record execs rightfully realize the nature of the internet age, artist staying power is difficult. But, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t expect nuance from these artists. Or, at the very least, a discernable creative direction. As the previous paragraph suggests though, trap music is all about the atmosphere. When the auto-tune, triplet hi hats and loud bass kicks come in, the listener is transported. To their credit, Migos does this well. In collaboration with their team of producers, they’ve produced a trap album set to the modern era. Perhaps they’re onto something. Given the way our society is headed, maybe “escapism music” is the sound of the future.

Culture II” is available Jan. 16 on Apple Music.