Migos’ “Culture” Review: The Cubic Zirconia of Trap

(THE PICKET) — Imagine the largest and most extravagant ring available. The stone embedded in the gold ring is perfect. Instead of a ruby, sapphire, or any beautiful gem, the ring is holding a cubic zirconia cut to appear as a flawless diamond. Migos’ latest album is that ring “Culture” loses weight and punch under close inspection, even with the presence of fine-tuned, glamorous production

When Atlanta’s own trap trio dropped chart-topper ‘Versace’ in 2013, the crew has been riding their own wave ever since. Each verse ends with an ad-lib. Every track is host to infectious hooks that define what it means to head bob. Their impeccable triplet rhymes surf over some of the punchiest sounds made possible by veteran producers who never come up empty on how to use an 808.

Migos’ latest release, “Culture”, is no different. The project is obnoxiously catchy while Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset effortlessly roll of each other. The issue with the project is that Migos’ have already proven themselves as hit-makers. The word “talent” is synonymous with the group, yet they have not seized the opportunity to evolve past what they are clearly capable of. The end result is a perfectly serviceable trap album with all bark and barely any bite.

That is not to say there is zero enjoyment or quality to be found across the album’s hour long duration. Where this album excels is in its ability to stun with some of the most creative production coming out of the Atlanta trap scene. As per tradition with recent trends in the genre, the production credits act as features themselves. Frequent Gucci Mane collaborator Zaytoven is behind the boards on the song ‘Big on Big’ with his talented flavor of mixing harmonizing piano with dirty snares. Cardo, the brains behind Schoolboy Q’s ‘That Part’ and Jay Rock’s ‘Vice City’, orchestrates hard-hitting sounds of impending doom on the track ‘Deadz’. The album bounces and flows like a river filled with codeine and Sprite.

Migos work well when paired with far more interesting characters in the trap scene. Travis Scott spills onto the cocaine-dusted canvas of ‘Kelly Price,’ one of the project’s best cuts. 2 Chainz pulls up and rattles the track ‘Deadz’ with his signature brand of offbeat flow with a flex and a shrug. “Might buy a bowling alley, I got money out the gutter / Fully automatic, and it don’t don’t stutter.”

The album’s closer, ‘Out Yo Way,’ is a refreshing step in the right direction for the group’s evolution. Backed by a murderous baseline over a light-hearted flute tones, the track pays respect to the women that set them on the path to stardom. Each member takes full advantage of their flow, but Offset rips this beat to shreds with a verse that comes off as an earnest gloat in an effortless, rapid-fire flow. “Everybody said that we would fall away / Nobody thought that we would go up / But we blew up, blew up, blew up.”

The album was released on streaming, digital, and physical on Jan. 27, 2017.

Thomas Girod is a staff writer for The Picket. You can reach him at tgirod02@rams.shepherd.edu