Donald Glover once claimed, when accepting an award, that Migo were the Beatles of Southern Hip-Hop and it’s ever growing monstrous presence in pop culture worldwide has a lot to do with Migos reigniting a flame Gucci Mane’s mixtapes could only keep lit for so long. And since then they have elevated their sound and range more, despite more frequent inconsistencies. Now, after a whole year has flown by with little rumblings Migos have returned with Culture 3, the third part of this album trilogy. As it is with the Culture albums, Migos come with more perspective and bass that you start to forget Culture 2 existed… jokes aside the production, as usual, comes with this auspicious range and melodic-trap synchronicity and Migos deliver verses at an apex, even though some tracks teeter on mediocrity.
These days it’s hard to solidify and justify a phenomenal rap album that runs past the hour mark, and slightly deep into the next. Unlike last year’s Miles by Blu and Exile or To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick, Migos have had a tendency to overdo the length of an album in order to create a “movie” and less a concise project. In doing so, it leaves some tracks that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. And as it is with Culture 2, Culture 3 sniffs that runtime to meandering level, that sometimes you can get bored and the pacing starts to zoom by. And it’s no fault of the production.
Culture 3’s production is handled by a plethora of producers, like most trap-rap albums these days. Unlike last week’s The Voices of The Heroes, this group of producers here brings variety within the production itself instead of wrought sonic redundancy. It allows for Migos to continuously explore new avenues of delivery for some of the consistent content they rap about; whether making a flex based around the work during quarantine on “Vaccine,” or the cadence of “What You See,” the ever-rare Migos sad-relationship centric song, Migos may not always deliver, but they make it work over the production. “What You See,” has great verses but is misguided by an awkward construct with Justin Bieber, the production keeps some intrigue going. This is the case for more than half the album, where the production stands out exponentially more than the performances.
Within these performances, Migos have shown a tenacity to focus on the depth within the confines of their Seinfeld-esque style of rapping about nothing. Though that isn’t the case here as they do rap about something, even if a lot of it is about flexing the earned success from hard work. A lot of the time these tracks buoy between mediocrity and boringly bad. These tracks that balance on the mediocrity line usually comes from the bullish and haphazard delivery of the more pertinent parts of a track like the chorus. “Vaccine” and “Mahomes,” which are very boring and redundant, laying away for one to care and continue the rest of it without feeling like it is a chore to.
As is with one of the bigger trends, some of the producers, along with some members of Migos add an elevated echo to add hype within both the verses and the tracks intro. I’ve mentioned in the past that this is an aspect from the various trends in hip-hop that is a favorite, albeit it becoming too much of a commonality that it can turn you off based on the context of the tracks. “Antisocial,” does so by giving that slightly elevated hype over a somber (in comparison to other tracks) percussion and moody production, however unlike the verses, the intro’s use meshes well as it acts like a forewarning, with OVO artist BAKA NOT NICE delivering the line “(Murda on the beat so it’s not nice!).” And it isn’t, as it steers away from the more centered trap tracks, allowing TakeOff and Quavo to take off the expensive clothes and humble themselves by diving deep into their past with drug abuse and more.
It’s the introspective and direct nature from some of the tracks on Culture 3 that keeps you reeled in, along with the more fluorescent and vibrant flex raps that deliver some smoothness in between. From the infectious and simply smart logical phrasing on “Why Not?” to the melodic and deep-rooted “Antisocial,” Migos continues to express a beautiful equilibrium within the variety. They have the esoteric-heavy bass production patterns that get elevated by unique brass-horn orchestrations on the overlay like on “Avalanche;” as well as, tracks that resonate with the inflection of a style they are taking influence on, like the gangster-rap influenced “Type Shit,” with Cardi B and the melodic piano notes from the emo-rap subgenre on “Antisocial.” It’s a breath of fresh air through and through.
Culture III is an uptick in the great direction for Migos as they fully engulf these styles and make them their own and a pleasant surprise from the trio. Though it does feel a bit overlong, there is more to like than not to keep on consistent rotation.