On Friday, Migos released “Culture II” following its 2017 hit record “Culture” almost to the exact date. “Culture” was a huge success due to its short, punchy tracklist, assortment of vibrant features, and high-quality production. However, on this new album, Migos strays away from some of the aspects that made “Culture” so popular. Their ambition gets the best of them and the long track list is a collection of disjointed items and not the effective statement that last year’s “Culture” was.
“Culture II” contains 24 songs totaling nearly two hours of music, which is double that of “Culture.” The album is largely hit or miss. There are bright spots here and there but the album is inconsistent and at times even bland. As the album progresses, many of the slower, more forgettable songs start to blend together. There is an apparent lack of cohesion as the 24 songs feel more like a playlist of singles and B-sides than a complete album.
Producers like Metro Boomin, Zaytoven, Cardo, Murda Beatz, Ricky Racks, Cassius Jay, and 808 Godz return for “Culture II,” making the production quality equal to that of Culture. The beat on “Open It Up” even sounds almost identical to last year’s “Deadz.” The production is exciting and loud, then it is too slow and rhythmic, then it’s foreign and exotic, and at times even electronic. The inconsistent beat choice leaves the album jumbled and searching for an identity.
Migos has mastered the essence of trap rap. They tap into the vein that has made them so successful in the past on songs like “Open It Up,” “BBO (Bad Bitches Only)” and “Emoji a Chain.” On these songs, Migos raps about diamond studded chains and Patek Philippe watches, beautiful women, cups full of codeine, and stacks of cash. The topics on these energetic cuts are certainly nothing new and are very much in Migos’ wheelhouse.
On “Culture II,” Migos also begins to experiment with new styles, leading to some of the album’s highest points, but also some low points. Songs such as “Stir Fry,” “Narcos,” and “Notice Me” are not only catchy and energetic but push the boundaries of modern rap.
“Stir Fry” is unique among everything Migos has created. Written by Pharrell, the track is catchy, stimulating, and hard not to dance along to. Funky beats and excessive ad-libs give the track an enduring fast pace. Takeoff explores outside of his domain by singing a brief melody at the end of his verse. Quavo sings, “Keep watchin’ me whip up/ Still be real and famous.” The song was released about a month before the release of the album and has been a catchy radio hit that thrust Migos back into the center-stage of the hip-hop scene.
On “Narcos,” Migos plays the role of drug lord Pablo Escobar, popularized by the Netflix series of identical title. The song is exotic, the acoustic beat does not overstep its purpose and riddled with the “arriba” and “magnifica” ad-libs, still retains the distinct Latin vibe. Offset and Takeoff deliver some of their best verses on the whole album.
Offset raps “I ain’t really with the razzle-dazzle/Knock him off and then I throw him off the boat paddle/Go to Tijuana, put the kilo on the saddle,” with precision. And Takeoff follows it up strong with “No monkey in the jungle, block hot like a sauna (hah)/ Bustin’ knocking on me, tryna weave with anacondas (fire).”
On “Notice Me,” Post Malone makes an unexpected appearance. He sings about how his new jewelry and designer clothes make people notice him more than before. The song’s slower, moody beat complements Post Malone’s chorus, “Saint Laurent on both my feet/ All this jewelry, they gon’ notice me.” This is one of the few instances in which slower style works well on the album.
Songs such as these stand out, however, this experimentation does not always pan out as evidenced by songs like “Auto Pilot (Huncho On The Beat),” “Made Men,” and “Gang Gang.” On songs like these, as well as other forgettable tracks like “CC” and “Flooded,” Migos slow down the flow in an attempt to turn the mood dark and rhythmic. These attempts are not effective and instead result in more tedious and repetitive tracks which ramble on without end.
Most other tracks are listenable but generally mediocre. Carried by features, a few of these songs serve as a refreshing change. Most notably, Drake’s feature on “Walk It Talk It” will inevitably drag this song into the mainstream. This is Drake’s first appearance on a Migos track since the remix of their 2013 breakout hit “Versace.”
Although most songs carry no features, three artists: Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, and Big Sean appear on “White Sand.” Scott’s hook is catchy and adds more refreshment from the monotony that ensues in the project’s middle section, but the song feels like a jumbled mash of different artists. None of the Migos even appear on the song until a minute and a half into the song.
Other notable songs include the intro: “Higher We Go,” which oversells the significance of the album but sounds good.
“Too Much Jewelry” breaks the formula: Quavo hook, Quavo verse, Quavo hook, Offset verse, etc that is all too prevalent throughout the majority of the project. On this song, the unlikely hero Takeoff steps forward to deliver a surprisingly smooth and solid hook complimented nicely by Quavo’s ad-libs and short vocals here and there.
Offset’s performance on “Movin’ Too Fast” is another nice break from the monotonous auto-tuned drenched Quavo hooks.
And finally on “Too Playa” 2 Chainz comes through to deliver a pretty outstanding feature, adding to another classic, triplet-ridden Migos brag-fest, this time on top of a groovy clarinet-centered beat.
“Culture II” does not match last year’s exceptional performance. It is not nearly as coherent, consistent, nor does it deliver a statement like “Culture” did. It is not as much a work of art as a “Grab bag” — as Pitchfork has coined it — an assortment of different flows, feels, and tones, some more effective than others. The best way to listen to this album is to filter through the album for oneself, extract the gems from the stream of mediocrity and compile a playlist of favorites.
The album’s structure matches the generational trend of making long, varied albums in hopes of accumulating more streams and more billboard album sells, and in that way, it does embody the current music ‘culture.’ As noted by Pitchfork, “Culture and Art do not always share the same priorities.”
“Culture II” on Spotify
Scroll down to leave a comment.