Migo Gang: What makes the Migos so popular?
Last weekend, the wildly successful rap group, Migos, released their highly anticipated album; “Culture II”. The sequel to the 2017 hit record “Culture,”comes at a time when the industry seems to be flooded with the Migo sound. Whether it be the last commercial mixtape they released, or the Quality Control labels slough of heavy hitting rap aficionados, or the countless features they have been on, the Migos have truly solidified themselves as the top names in Rap. Even though their recent Album has received mixed reviews, there is no denying the trio has set the tone for the industry. So, what exactly makes the group so popular? Well to answer this question, we have to look at not just how the Migos rap, but how their style and flow have impacted mainstream culture and how that is affecting hip-hop overall.
Beats and the Triplet flow
“Humina! Humina! Humina!” if you just read that with a triplet flow, it’s not because you're naturally predisposed to read it like that. It’s probably because this sounds similar to a flow that you’ve heard before. The “triplet” flow that has been popularized by the Migos over the last 4-5 years has given way to several rappers utilizing the same flow. The beats the Migos used haven’t been that much different from the ones that their peers have historically used but there is something unique to the triplet flow that the Migos tapped into that just seems to make it all work. This flow has only gotten better as hip-hop beats have become quicker, snappier, anymore base driven. A lot of producers are spending more time refining beats to match individual artists and it’s no surprise that some of the most sought-after producers in Music are looking to collaborate with the Migos.
Ad-libs on Ad-libs
Ad-libs are hardly a new concept in hip-hop. But, just as with the lyrics, concepts and beats of hip-hop have evolved via the creativity of the artists. With the Migos in particular, ad-libs and their importance to a song's structure, have become a key in the way artists produce music. They have not only changed how ad libs are incorporated into a song, the unique emphasis of each individual member makes it so that the importance of the ad-lib is just as important as the lyric that precedes it. Look at how the ad-libs in the Chorus of the 2017 hit-song “T-Shirt” are structured. “Momma told me (aye!), Not to sell work (momma!) seventeen-five, same color T-shirt (White!)” The way this bar is written makes it so that the timing of the ad-lib compliments the root lyric as well emphasizes the ad-lib with energy and flare.
These ad-libs not only serve as a way to emphasize other lyrics, but they act as a creative fill to get the next line in what would otherwise be dead air in the music. While the Migos, again, are not the first rappers to do this, they were one of the first to incorporate much more complex ad-libs, both tonally and rhythmically. Artists are now exploring how they can layer more complex ad libs and play around with the tone and rhythm of these ad-libs that we had not seen five to ten years prior to today.
Distinct, Yet In-Sync
Each member of the Migos stands alone on the merits of their own musical talents and accomplishments, but they are at their best when they come together on a song or a or an entire album. This is because the Migos just work well together. Better than any other rap group in some time. Their sound compliments each other so well that they often sound like they are rapping and singing as one individual. Whether it be just dubbing over ad-libs live as another member spits a verse or splitting the hook and refrain. The Migos regularly freestyle together and it is hard to tell sometimes if they can read each others mind as to what will come next.
In spite of this, fans have no problem distinguishing which member is which due to their distinct voices. Quavo delivers a high octave baritone that can match almost any melody. Offset has a gritty, raw delivery that utilizes an aggressive flow and hardened character. Takeoff finesses a deep voice with a sophisticated elegance that also cuts through minimalist trap instrumentals. All of them coming together in perfect harmony to make every song versatile and creative.
How Can they Keep Going?
The Migos have smartly released their own Record label similar to Jay-Z (Rocafella) and J.Cole (Dreamville), which will ensure they at least continue to make money off the emerging talent they have been signing on. The collective includes Rich the Kid, Skippa da Flippa, and, most recently, Lil’ Yachty. But if the Migos themselves want to remain relevant in the game, they will once again need to reinvent themselves as evidenced by this latest project. Either that or they will simply have to refine how they release content.
Part of the problem with the era of streaming is that the barrier to entry for releasing content is pretty low when you're comparing it to other musical eras. While this has definitely contributed to the rise of some great artists in the likes of Post Malone, Daniel Cesar, and Chance the Rapper, it has led to something I’ve started referring to as “Music Dumps”. This is the idea that streaming and advancements in musical production will make it so artists will simply release any track that they create.
This arguably part of the reason why this latest entry in the “Culture” franchise has failed to captivate fans. The first “Culture” project was a solid, tight 13 tracks. Even though every track wasn’t a masterpiece and the obviously had some flaws, the record was still held in very high regard by both fans and critics alike. The boldly named album lived up to its reputation by setting the standard for music that year. The Migos had become pop. Or rather, Pop went Migos. They were able to accomplish this with just over 50 minutes of music.
But in 2018, in an era where streams equal dollars, more content equals more money. You see this in projects like Chris Brown’s “Heartbreak on a Full Moon” and even the Migo subsidiary, Quality Control mixtape had a whopping 30 tracks. This new phenomenon of “stream-trolling” is likely to persist throughout 2018 and 2019 as streaming becomes the more common form of media consumption as record companies and artists lower their distribution costs in the process. In this regard the Migos will continue to be trendsetters, but not in a good way. Let’s hope rappers avoid this and opt for the staying power of diligently crafted music that made the first “culture” so noteworthy.