Arts, Features

REVIEW: Migos’ ‘Culture II’ does not stay far enough from ‘Culture’ roots

There is plenty left to do for the culture, but Migos’ second studio album might not have been it.

Offset, Takeoff and Quavo are back on their grind, giving us a sequel to 2017’s wildly popular “Culture.” If “Bad and Boujee” was last summer’s anthem, they’re lucky because “Culture II,” released on Jan. 26, does not stand up to the hype generated by everyone’s favorite luxe swagger bop. With the same themes and structure, “Culture II” falls short of making a statement, leaving Migos with only their ad libs to fall back on.

The album’s lead single, “MotorSport,” pulls together two of the biggest female rappers in the game onto a decidedly hot track. With a deep trap beat — now the trio’s signature sound — Cardi B and Nicki Minaj’s flows drop smooth and bold in contrast to Migos’ more muted verses.

On glamour-druggie bop “Narcos,” Quavo repeats his insistence at not being lumped in with “mumble rappers,” a subgenre of trap rappers including the likes of Future, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert. He bounces “This real rap, no mumble” on the hook, but unfortunately for Mr. Quav, him and his buddies are already firmly set within the realm of marble-mouthed MCs, and “Culture II” does little to move the trio away from this sound.

The problem with “Culture II” is that you want to enjoy it. With all-star features from Travis Scott and Drake to Post Malone and Gucci Mane, and a knockout production team featuring the likes of Metro Boomin, Pharrell Williams and the king Kanye West himself, the album promises a show full of big bars, tight beats and glittering watches against a background of luxury vehicles and beautiful, ethnically ambiguous women.

The music itself certainly isn’t a throwaway. While the production is definitely not as tight as it could be, it doesn’t feel jarring to switch from the more sinister, electronically fueled “Flooded” to the album’s finale, “Culture National Anthem,” which is rich and deep with a vaguely G-funk vibe that sounds like Snoop Dogg might’ve blown some smoke on it.

But at the end of the insanely long — 24 tracks and nearly two hours of trap — album, we’re left with only fading beats and nothing to really think about. If “Culture” introduced rap to a new breed of trap rapper, then “Culture II” is bringing along all the cousins, because there’s definitely nothing new coming to the table.

Cocaine, cars, Colombian girls – they’re all here, in excess, all wearing Rolex watches and drinking expensive Champagne in hotels they don’t belong in, because, while they’re huge superstars with piles of cash, the Migos are still hood.

“BBO,” featuring fellow Atlanta come-up 21 Savage, is a love song to girls with attitude and sleek weave and booms in the way that only the diamond-encrusted, Versace-clad Migos can.

Yet for all their bravado and swag, the boys bring almost nothing else to the table. Quavo, the de facto leader, slips in and out with verses recycled from “Culture,” while secret fan favorite Offset and the group’s baby bro Takeoff drop stale bar after stale bar, interspersed with memorized ad libs. The superficiality of their lyrics wilt against the full, if a little stale, production of the beats, and the trap lifestyle seems less glam than they want us to believe.

If “Culture II” was a six-song EP filled with witty word play, they could perhaps showcase a more playful side of the lifestyle they have so clearly mastered. Instead, living the high life seems monotonous and rote and a little worn out, tired in a bored way, much like the exotic dancers the boys so clearly keep in their vicinity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And so, with a “skrrt” over the beat, the Migos’s start to 2018 falls flat of the superstardom of the year past, leaving us to wonder: They might still be boujee, but are they really all that bad?

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