Say what you want about Southern hip-hop, but one thing is undeniable: it rules the game right now, and it shows no signs of falling off.
From the controversial rise of the Geto Boys in the early 90’s, to Lil Wayne’s incessant mixtape output that defined the 2000’s, all the way to Atlanta’s newfound reign, the South has come a long way in the hip-hop world.
And right now, nobody represents this climate better than Migos. Since their breakout “Versace” single in 2013, they’ve risen to become the zeitgeist. Everyone is biting their triplet-laced flows and spastic ad-libs, and their bouncy trunk-rattling sound is littered all over radio.
Last year’s Culture was, in my opinion, one of the best releases of 2017. So what if it was devoid of lyrical substance or some sort of “deeper” meaning? It was track after track of indelible trap bangers. Every song was solid, with an instantly memorable hook, sneakily well-crafted lyricism and infectious flows.
So as soon as Culture II was released last week, I eagerly jumped to Apple Music to burn through it. As I scrolled through the tracklist, I quickly realized one of the album’s fatal flaws: it’s way too long. Nearly two hours long, in fact.
There’s no reason for an album composed solely of bangers to be nearly two hours long. Albums like this are best experienced at a runtime that is short, sweet, and punchy. This album instead feels grating. At a certain point, all the songs begin to sound the same and you feel less like dabbing and more like falling asleep.
But none of the tracks are particularly memorable or exciting in the first place. When you think of Migos, you probably think of quotable one-liners, erratic deliveries, and the catchiest hooks imaginable.
But none of that is found here. What we’re left with is truly frustrating. For one, too many of the hooks on this project are hardly even hooks in the first place. Take, for instance, the hook on “Walk It Talk It,” which is just the phrase “Walk it like I talk it” repeated ad nauseum. The meticulous construction is gone. Repeating lame phrases does not constitute a hook.
Most of the verses are just as bad. Granted, nobody expects particularly compelling lyricism from Migos, but there’s usually some character to the words they fling around. Whether it’s with their ATL slang or left-field turns of phrase and wordplay, their lyrics are usually fun, and have a way of permanently worming their way into your brain.
However, on Culture II this is replaced with hollow, blase pieces of trap swill. “I put my wrist inside the freezer, came out froze,” Takeoff lamely raps on “Superstars.” Gone are the wonderfully weird references to Takis and Andy Milonakis.
Even the features leave a lot to be desired. 21 Savage sounds as braindead as ever on “BBO,” and Drake is his usual bland self on “Walk It Talk It.”
The best features come from Cardi B and Nicki Minaj on “Motorsport.” I normally find Cardi B to be pretty boring, but her attitude on this track is infectious and her hypersexual bars are hard to resist. And the vocal inflection Nicki employs is as animated as always.
Along with “Motorsport,” the only truly good track on this album is “Stir Fry.” The production, handled by Pharrell Williams, is funky, minimal, and strangely addicting. Leave it to a genius like Pharrell to momentarily save this project.
Altogether, this record is tedious, dull, and easily Migos’ worst project to date. Everything that made them so enjoyable on past projects is gone. This feels more like a giant, lazy middle finger to their fanbase than a sequel to one of the best albums of 2017. My disappointment is immeasurable.