Everyone has heard it by now— “Bad and Boujee” by Migos’ has been dominating the
charts ever since its release early in December. This track has gone on to be Migos’ most popular song to date, with the refrain becoming ubiquitous over social media, and causing a lot of anticipation for their full length project. Consisting of Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, Migos is a hip-hop group based out of Atlanta, and their new album “CULTURE” is an ambitious, entertaining and surprisingly brilliant project.
The trio revels in the hard-hitting trap sound from Atlanta (a sound they initially helped create) and “CULTURE” is chock-full of it. The beginning track “Culture,” featuring DJ Khaled sets up the pace immediately, opening up with DJ Khaled warning “all the fuckboys” for doubting the Migos,’ segueing immediately with a beat packed with percussive hi-hats and snares along with autotuned vocals. While this track does feel a little repetitive toward the end, it does create a sonic palette that the rest of the record follows at points weaving in and out of this soundscape.
Furthermore, this project specifically stands out with the production. While the traditional trap percussion, boasting sped-up kickdrums and hi-hats, is still front and center, Migos utilize stunning and hypnotic synth and string melodies, creating a deeply layered sound and adding depth on tracks like “T-shirt” and “Get Right Witcha.” For example, the latter track opens with a woodwind melody, which subtly builds tension until the beat explosively pops, bringing heavy bass drums and the typical soundscape to the front. The former, “T-Shirt” is in fact more subtle: Opening up with an atmospheric synth melody, heavy bass notes and pared down snare rhythm, the beat progressively gains layers as Quavo and Offset alternate between verses. About a minute in, there are impressive auto-tuned background vocals (which sound like Travis Scott although there are no production credits for it). The progression of the beat is hypnotic and powerful, with the different melodies creating a deeply layered trap sound.
Moreover, tracks like “Brown Paper Bag” and “Big on Big” feature incredible piano riffs in tandem with strings and synth sounds. Produced by Zaytoven, the harmonies are arguably the most powerful here. In the pantheon of hip-hop producers, Zaytoven might well be one of the most accomplished pianists out there.
By far the standout track on this record is “Kelly Price” featuring Travis Scott, whose vocals and production propel this track with beautiful synth and string harmonies in conjunction with heavily autotuned vocals. This track, which sounds less like a Migos cut than a Travis Scott song, is a welcome breather from the 808s heavy production throughout the record.
More than any of the structural elements, what really makes this album such a fun project is the chemistry between Quavo, Takeoff and Offset. There is not a single moment where an adlib sounds out of place, or a vocal transition is not seamless — the three MCs are perfectly in sync and weave in and out of verses and ad libs so fluidly at times it becomes hard to tell when the exact transition even occurs.
Ironically, the weakest cut on “CULTURE” is arguably “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert. While this single is already iconic, the choice to give Lil Uzi Vert instead of Takeoff a verse was a lethal decision: Uzi’s verse on this track must belong in the top tier of terrible garbage verses. It’s horrendous. Really.
Holistically, “CULTURE” does not really add anything to a played out trap sound. What it does, alternatively, is play the soundscape better than anyone else can hope too. Not since Travis Scott’s “Rodeo” has a trap album been this ubiquitously strong the entire way through.