Migos - Culture II (Review)

Martin_Canine
MIGOS
Culture II
★★★★☆

One of the first things you’ll notice about Culture II is that it’s almost twice as long as the first volume. In modern days, albums, especially in the hip hop genre (or the crossover style of Post Malone, XXXTentacion and Lil Peep that still needs a name), seem to range from 20 minutes to the length of a regular feature film, depending on the artist. There are those who seem to constantly record a bunch of songs on the daily and then just slap them on a variety of EPs, mixtapes and albums, often without announcement, so it’s hard to keep track, or those who take their time to record the songs and then release an album as an overall artistic work. Migos recorded a selection of 24 tunes and put them all on one double disc album that has been anticipated after their 2017 breakthrough.

To be honest, I rather buy myself an album stuffed with music and select the songs that I like, rather than getting so little content for the same amount of money. Of course, in the end it all depends on the quality, or at least entertainment value of the music, and if I keep repeating 8 tracks of an 8 track record or 8 tracks of a 35 track piece does make a difference. Many people were disappointed by Culture II - not necessarily because it couldn’t keep up with the predecessor, but because it’s too crammed with music, the majority felt that it would have had a stronger impact on the listener with less songs. To cut a long story short: I don’t agree with this opinion.

Culture II is about as fun as regular trap music gets. Other artists may have released trap albums that were lyrically deeper or more experimental in sound, but for those who enjoy the genre for its entertainment value can’t find a much better album to spend their time with. I am deeply impressed with how sick the flow of all three Migos members is on the tracks. Not that this would be news to me. The album’s predecessors, Yung Rich Nation and Culture, as well as a bunch of mixtapes (of which the best one is No Label II), already proved that they are as on point with the beat as if they were part of the drum kits. Whether it’s the ad libs or the actual words - when trap is all about becoming one with the music, then Migos get an A+++ for fulfilling that task. And the best part is it doesn’t sound as if they are trying hard to achieve that, it’s always easy going. Just listen to Offset contemporary switch up the tempo with his verse on the Pharrell Williams produced banger Stir Fry, in the middle of a relaxed delivery that goes well with that of the other members, he suddenly starts double timing and it comes off as completely natural. In fact, all three rappers deliver something like this over the course of the record, but don’t stand out as much because the pronunciation is stricter in this one moment (which in no way means they mumble, they are actually among the trappers with the clearest delivery out there).

But the speed doesn’t need to be anywhere near that fast to convince. In fact, songs like the smooth CC, the almost sung Gang Gang and the sinister Flooded wouldn’t be the highlights they are if the vocals weren’t as calm as the atmosphere needs them to be. Although a large part of the 24 tunes are within the conventions of the trap genre, there’s still enough variety in the beats to keep it interesting all the way through: CC has a strong organ dominated sound, White Sand relies on 8-bit synth lines, Stir Fry uses a 2000s style pop rap drum kit, Narcos is based around a guitar loop, BBO is built around a soul sample, Open It Up feels like a sequel to Deadz with a glamorous brass heavy instrumental. And also the songs that feature the regular sound scheme are rich in atmosphere and are carried by the group’s melodic flow - the best example may be Beast, whose vocals are arguably catchier than those of Bad and Boujee.

One of the biggest criticism of Migos is that they are weak lyricists. And yeah, it’s kind of true that they aren’t exactly outstanding in neither their complexity, nor their poetry nor their topics. It’d be unfair comparing them to artists like Eminem, Kendrick Lamar or Tech N9ne, as that’s not what they aim for. The subgenre they are in lives from a symbiosis of voice and music. And while other artists achieve this by relying almost entirely by ad libbing, Migos can deliver actual words and make it sound just as fluently. It also needs to be noted that neither member of the group is actually bad at writing - the words are well modelled after the flow, the subjects they hit fit the kind of music they make and for the most part, the rhymes sound right to the ear. Every once in a while there’s an interesting thought or a clever play on words. That’s all I’m asking for in this genre. They’re not battle rappers, they’re not conscious rappers, they are trappers. They are all about the musical aspect of rapping, and they more than delivered.

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