As one of the biggest rap groups in music right now, Migos have hefty expectations on them. While their latest release Culture II certainly doesn’t rise to their expectations, it will offer fans more of what they already love while carrying some much fresher material in small doses. While the band really doesn’t push themselves to say something new here, the rare moments they step outside their comfort zone are the album’s finest moments.
While it certainly carries a menacing atmosphere, Migos aren’t really putting their strongest song forward as they open with “Higher We Go,” as it feels like a pastiche of what they’ve done better before. “Supastars” starts to push the envelope however, as their deep bass grooves and excited leapfrog-style vocal switching makes their aggressive attitude all the more intense. The light Latin grooves of “Narcos” is the first fresh sound of the album however with their vocals having to adapt to the rhythms to keep up.
“BBO (Bad Bitches Only)” unfortunately feels the least inspired on the record, as even their backing tracks feel too close to much of the album. Their more loose production on “Auto Pilot (Huncho On The Beat)” is much more intriguing however as they mix a sci-fi sound on a strangely open beat. The bizarre bell hooks of “Walk It Talk It” give it a spooky ambiance that sets it apart, they even feature some of their most clever lyrics here on top of an eccentric delivery.
Unfortunately with so many tracks on the album, a song like “Emoji A Chain” loses a lot of its fun lyricism in a backing track that sounds incredibly dull. “CC” has a wonderfully vintage feeling to its synth hooks, and the smooth flow between the group and Gucci Mane never eases up. The first popping moment of the album however is “Stir Fry” where they bring in their most dynamic beat and really infuse the song with an exciting amount of pop for a track that is instantly infectious.
They lose a lot of this excitement on “Too Much Jewelry” where only some sparing dreamy bridges offer up a creative and ambitious push for Migos. “Gang Gang” boasts what seems to be a satirical level of repetitive lyrics despite its fun and varying pop writing, and the track feels cleverly self-aware or at least a perfect lean into their rough image. Despite the huge cast on “White Sand” and its funky synth lines, the beat and groove is so basic for Migos that not even Big Sean or Travis Scott can save it.
As the album progresses however, Migos twist their style around the unusual production of tracks like “Crown the Kings” and “Flooded,” where they actually make some haunting music by subverting their generic beats into some ambitious writing. Where “Beast” feels like a simple album filler, “Open It Up” cranks up the synths and organs to give the group a Kanye level of grandeur to push the track above their usual laid-back energy.
The writing is at the forefront of “MotorSport” with the group’s hilarious interpretations of simple words feeling brilliant and Minaj’s angry energy feeling stronger than most of her recent work. Despite the more intriguing instrumentation of tracks like “Work Hard” and “Movin’ Too Fast” there’s something just lacking from their energy on the tracks that weakens the messages they try to bring in their lyrics. Post Malone’s unique energy and the unusual beats of “Notice Me” make it stand out on the album, as a track that can go from 0 to 60 at any moment.
Like too much of the album, the repetitive beat work on the album makes a lot of the more ambitious lyricism on a track like “Top Down On Da NAWF” feel weakened and the surprising saxophone of “Too Playa” feel utterly wasted. “Made Men” on the other hand has a more upbeat and classic energy to it, as it reinterprets the band’s entire style over 90s hip hop.
Words by Owen Maxwell