Migos’ “Bad And Boujee” was a sneak attack, creeping into our bloodstreams like a dosed vat of punch. Initially released in late October, it crept up on the world thanks in part to a rapidly matriculating meme about heading back into the club the second that the track comes on. This narrative—of “Bad And Boujee” coming from nowhere to change your mind—is uniquely apropos, given the song’s nature. It doesn’t start with a seismic “Hard In Da Paint” drop or an immediately recognizable “Black Beatles” synth line—it fades in on a soft shimmer, Offset setting the stage, before the beat snaps into place at a light bounce. And then that bounce just rides, a swift six minutes of lush, mahogany rap. It’s one of the lowest-key tracks to obliterate rap radio in years—funny but not goofy, rich but still light.
You could say the same thing about the entirety of Culture, an unassumingly great record from a trio that had seemed happy to stay in their lane. Ever since Migos exploded with a series of infectious singles and an inimitable (but much-imitated) triplet-heavy flow, the band members have encountered critics who called them one-note. Migos’ response was to release volume after volume of consistent, trilling trap music, some tracks quietly better and weirder than the others, but all still generally of a piece. Culture follows through on the promise of “Bad And Boujee,” showing, at last, what the band had been working toward: more of the same, but way better. Migos hasn’t fundamentally reinvented itself—its delirious lyrical interplay and sumptuous minor-key production works just as it has on the trillion other tracks the trio has released since 2013. But the 13 compositions here show a newfound interest in quality control. There’s no sifting through to find the good tracks this time; they’re all hot as a Lawrenceville summer.
It’s hard to tell, in its wake, whether Migos has just focused energy for one tight release or made an evolutionary step. From the barrel-chested intro to the sweet, moonlit closer, the album is full of wide-screen compositional details, whether it’s the fluttering pan flutes of “Get Right Witcha” or the way the three emcees spiral around each other on “What The Price.” Even when the trio goes big, as on the ominous “Deadz,” they still find room for dynamics, climaxing in a syncopated Takeoff verse backed by warped ‘80s horror synths. The old categories of good Migos tracks—the band’s massive, addictive singles, and weird deep-album cuts—coalesce on Culture, which is fundamentally the first good Migos album. From its title to its filmic cover art to its patient, airy sense of space, it feels like an event, an underdog claim to a place in the Atlanta rap pantheon. On the one hand, Migos is here to reclaim its own legacy: the much-imitated flow, the dabbing, the still-escalating series of memes. These are part of Migos. On the other, it’s reaching back, sketching out a middle ground between Gucci Mane and Goodie Mob. Migos is not, as Donald Glover has said, “the Beatles of their generation,” but on Culture the band stakes a claim as the most important rap group to come out of Atlanta since Outkast. That it even seems fathomable is proof of the album’s success.