Back in his stand-up days, future Klump Eddie Murphy had a great bit about being accosted by foreign-speaking fans who could only recite the profanity-laced portion of his act back to him. Speaking with a clipped, Indian accent (while flashing that mega-watt smile), Murphy would turn on a dime, point to his imagined self and say “Hey, Eddie Murphy — fuck you!” The joke being that his act was so flush with F-bombs that even non-English speakers could join in on the fun.
My gut feeling is that Migos, with their penchant to stretch out the shortest of syllables, is having the same effect by allowing third-world kiddos to extol the virtues of Versace and cocaine. But that, of course, doesn’t even begin to touch the reach of these Atlanta boys within these Divided States of America. For half a decade, Migos have been the capstone of hip-hop, ushering in a new era of “the dab”; a gesture mimicked by star quarterbacks, Chewbacca moms and even Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (imagine Dan Quayle saying “Me so horny”). So, maybe that’s why Migos decided to call their newest release “Culture.” It’s a Migos world, and we just dab in it.
Bouncing back from 2015’s stiff, underwritten (and that’s saying something) Yung Rich Nation — an album beset by legal setbacks (including Offset’s brief incarceration) — Migos comes out with Uzis blazing. Culture is top heavy with hits, including chart topper “Bad and Boujee,” but the first voice heard on the opening title track is the ever ubiquitous DJ Khaled (“For all you f__boys who doubted the Migos, you’ve played yourself”). Who’s doubted the Migos? Well, even if such people exist (even Elvis had doubters), they’ve been put on notice. The song also features my favorite couplet of the year so far when Takeoff spits “Spendin’ M&M’s in June / took a trip to Cancun.” I’m not even entirely sure what he’s referring to, but I’m guessing it’s not the candy that melts in your mouth (and not in your hands).
Key track “T-Shirt” name checks Yoda, God and broccoli. Migos’ flow seems like the hip-hop successor to the spiritual practice of Automatic Writing. The song also has a fantastic video; a spin on the pseudo-documentary Nanook of the North (if Nanook had access to snowmobiles flanked by babes with Russ Meyer-approved bosoms).
Another key track is “Slippery,” with its stranger than Stranger Things synth line and programmed drums. “Slippery” finds the guys spending lavishly on women who barely give them the time of day. The song perfectly mixes bravado and vulnerability. Takeoff says “They think I’m dumb, they don’t know I see the plot.” Eventually the women are won over; a codeine-laced “I Swear.”
The internet has had fun with the notion that Migos > The Beatles. But with their ability to mix pleasure and pain, colored by the struggling socio-economic landscape, they more resemble Ray Davies and company.
Culture could already be described as a career-defining work, except Migos’ career is still being defined. But each setback endured seems to have made these guys stronger. As stated by Quavo on the album closer — the contemplative “Out Yo Way” — “All this pain, we can live through it, it’s called success.” You hear that, doubters (whomever you are)?
Mike Postalakis (@mikepostalakis) is a writer, director and comedian living in Los Angeles. He doesn’t have a Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or HBO Go account. Instead, he spends his extra money at the Gap.