Last year was the year of Migos. They began 2017 by releasing their tour de force, Culture, a project that catapulted them to international stardom. They maintained their public presence throughout the year: A series of well-placed features (e.g. “Slide” by Calvin Harris and “Congratulations” by Post Malone), the release of collaborative albums (Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho and Without Warning) as well as a leading role on Quality Control’s compilation album Control the Streets Volume 1 kept them in the limelight.
There was no way that Culture II would have that same X-factor that Culture possessed; sequels almost never do. My first listen through, I really disliked this album. I went in worried that the excessive length and repetitious flows of the members (a crime of which Quavo is particularly guilty) would make this project a chore to get through. The opening tracks seemed to confirm my fears — this would be a project bogged down by sameness and lack of innovation, the death knell of Migos’s time in the spotlight. Sure, “Walk It Talk It,” “BBO (Bad Bitches Only)” and maybe “Narcos” would be hits, but they felt stale nonetheless and were surrounded by below average cuts. It was only on track nine (“Stir Fry”) that the album began to feel like something new. Previously released as a single, this Pharrell-produced song is an auspicious sign for the rest of the album. “Too Much Jewelry” is OK but bland until the 2:45 mark, where some captivating autotune comes in (it sounds almost like a talkbox at times). “White Sand” is probably the most disappointing track on the album — with Travis Scott production and a star-studded ensemble of features one would expect a strong outing, but the end product is weak in every way.
Perhaps the most interesting track is “Gang Gang.” The beat grabs immediately — it’s kind of melancholy, not a vibe ever really explored by Migos before. It’s quite poppy as well (produced by The Arcade, known mostly for his work with Iggy Azalea). It perhaps suffers from a overly-repetitive hook, but it’s new territory for Migos regardless.
The decision to make a 24-track album bottom-heavy is bold, the stretch from tracks 20-23 (“Notice Me” to “Top Down On Da NAWF”) being the most consistent section of the album by far. Culture felt polished and restrained, only 13 tracks long. Culture II is almost double that, and in serious need of some cuts.
An ideal version of Culture II would have a tracklist something like:
- “BBO (Bad Bitches Only)”
- “Walk It Talk It”
- “Stir Fry”
- “Too Much Jewelry”
- “Gang Gang”
- “Crown the Kings”
- “Open It Up”
- “Notice Me”
- “Too Playa”
- “Made Men”
- “Top Down On Da NAWF”
This tracklist would rival Culture in terms of quality and variety, but not in terms of cultural influence. Culture II feels like a transitionary album; Migos have reached a point in their career at which they have to choose what path to follow next.