Migos Culture II Quality Control Music / Virgin / EMI
Ever since the chart rules were adjusted to count streams alongside sales, commercially-minded artists have been padding out their albums with filler to get those numbers up.
And in the realm of hip-hop, the strategy of being relentlessly prolific to stay relevant precedes these new incentives from streaming giants. While serving a 24-month prison sentence from 2014 to 2016, Atlanta rap figurehead Gucci Mane released countless street mixtapes. This leftover material tended to be mediocre at best, but the projects succeeded in keeping Gucci Mane’s name constantly on the timeline during his absence. Migos manager Coach K – who played a huge role in Gucci Mane’s rise – has confirmed that the increasingly popular trio are also shrewdly generous with their output. Late last year, Offset’s Without Warning project with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin was soon followed by a 30-track compilation from Coach K’s Quality Control label – on which a Migos member appeared on 22 of its songs. Two weeks later, Quavo dropped a collaborative LP with Travis Scott. A great Migos track requires close listening to admire the precision with which they spray the pockets of a beat with slapstick ad-libs, choppy syllables and Quavo’s autotuned purrs, and there just wasn’t enough time to digest all this music. But Coach’s plan had worked: at the beginning of 2018, Quavo was on 11 of the top 100 tracks in the US Billboard singles chart.
While Migos’ Culture album was a concise effort, propelled by the viral hit Bad and Boujee and backed up with slow-burning fan favourites, its 24-track sequel runs at 106 minutes, rendering the Quality Control name slightly ironic. It’s easy to spot the disposable tracks (the sleepy intro Higher We Go and the instantly forgettable Post Malone collab Notice Me spring to mind) but the Migos are galvanised when the production digresses from their standard template of minor key trap beats. The fuzzy synths and whistles of the Pharrell-produced Stir Fry wake them up from a mid-album slumber, the sentimental Made Men sees the trio adjust their bow ties in the mirror for a slick ode to the good times, while Too Playa 2 is decorated with an epic, melancholic saxophone lead which brings out an inspired performance from 2 Chainz – a considered guest, as the track would have fit snugly on his vibrant 2017 album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.
While Offset and Quavo sometimes sound fatigued on Culture II, Twitter has been applauding the efforts of Takeoff, the trio’s gruff-voiced underdog, who goes extra hard throughout – perhaps in an effort to fix his reputation after being unfairly clowned for being “left off Bad and Boujee”. His groupmates and label would do well to take a leaf out of his book, as it’s one thing to have everyone listening to your music, but it’s another to have them listening for all the right reasons.