‘Culture II’ falls flat, despite star-studded collaborations

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Grade: 2.0/5.0

The rise of Migos has been packed with dynamism. It was composed of ostentatious Audemars Piguet watches juxtaposed with the modest recording studios of Quality Control in Atlanta. It was characterized by the discipline of creating a monstrous 24-track album set against the ever-emerging stories of arrests surrounding the three members and their friends. This brand of unpredictability and lavishness, paired with their infectious, catchy lyrics, that carried the hip hop artists Offset, Quavo and Takeoff into the tops of Billboard charts. Culture, the precursor to Culture II, was jam-packed with banger after banger. It was the home of “Bad and Boujee” and “Slippery,” the latter of which featured trap legend, Gucci Mane.

Culture II doesn’t follow in the footsteps of its chart-defining predecessor. The album is painfully long — it’s a stretched-out, almost two-hour compendium of mumble rap and “skrrting.” The few breaks in the album come from its features, but even the impressive list of guest producers, ranging from Pharrell Williams to Kanye West, doesn’t pull enough weight to save the album from its own repetitiveness.

On multiple tracks, repeated lyrics bog down the beats, which are undoubtedly the saving grace of the album. “Walk It Talk It,” the sixth track on the album, is the first collaboration between Drake and Migos since “Versace, the 2013 chart-topper that Drake remixed and rapped over in a move that first made the Atlanta-based trio turn heads. Although the song features several rapped verses, all lyricism is drowned out by Quavo’s seemingly endless loops of “Walk it, like I talk it.” Even though it was repetitive catchiness that brought so much attention to songs such as “Hannah Montana” and “Bad and Boujee,” this device is used ad nauseum in Culture II, leaving the track list stale.

Not only would the album benefit from parsing in its choruses, the amount of tracks could easily be cut in half. After so much dope and expensive jewelry and after so many bitches, the album starts to feel like one really long, generic trap song. In the end, the album is heavily supported by its impressive features from the likes of Travis Scott and Cardi B, whose verse on “Motorsport” is one of the strongest moments on the album. Ultimately, it’s not actually Migos that stands out in Culture II.

But the fact that Migos has attracted all this talent to Culture II speaks to how the three rappers have become cultural icons. Their songs have made a place for trap music in predominantly white communities — transforming trap into one of the fundamental requirements of fraternity party soundtracks. They’re a group highly sought after by the most influential names in hip-hop. They’re featured on Donald Glover’s award winning show “Atlanta” and were rumored by West to have been signed to his G.O.O.D management wing — a rumor the group promptly shut down.

This is the group’s third studio album, and it’s still under Coach K’s label, Quality Control — an indie label that brought Gucci Mane and Jeezy to fame. Through his guidance, the group continued to make hit after hit about the culture that surrounds trap. Instead of running through what it was like to make trap music in Atlanta — something the group has done routinely in the past —  the lyrics of Culture II talk more about the exorbitant wealth and fame that has come from the group’s insanely successful music career.

In one of the more sentimental tracks, “Work Hard, the group talks about how its success is manifested in more than Rolexes and items from Saint Laurent. It’s a uncharacteristic, fleeting moment of intimacy that Migos builds as all three members talk about how, despite taking unorthodox routes to success, they can still go back and provide for their families. Nevertheless, these few moments where Migos demonstrates variation in its style is lost under the superficial film that covers this album.

This album does show a side of Migos that the group hasn’t explored in its previous albums, but this angle is drowned out by all the ad-libbing and extravagance. What could have been an interesting exposé into the culture of trap ends up as an album that stands wavering on its cast of fillers.

Annalise Kamegawa covers music. Contact her at [email protected].