Migos (Credit: Getty/Bryan Bedder)
On Saturday afternoon, the rap group Migos was the subject of a pop-up Culture Class — an allusion to their sophomore album, “Culture,” which was released on Friday — at New York University. The rappers Quavo and Takeoff, who make up two-thirds of Migos (Offset was absent), were asked about fashion culture, pop culture, and music culture. Things like: How does an up-and-coming artist with $100 to spend achieve the Migos look? (Can’t); What three movies would you take if you were stranded on a desert island? (“Castaway,” “The Pursuit of Happiness,” and a crazy shoot-em-up flick); and “How is cash a fashion statement and is there a duffel bag nearby full of cash right now?” (“There’s a pocket nearby.”).
It was Quavo who gave that last answer and, like Mary Poppins, he proceeded to produce a brick of cash that incomprehensibly had fit, and been unnoticed, in the pocket of his black designer joggers. Takeoff, wearing light ripped jeans, did the same. The audience, composed mostly of students and the press, laughed and hollered, astonished. So yes, the rappers were saying, cash is a fashion symbol, part of a bigger status symbol, and Migos is always repping.
While the members of Migos were rich and stuntin’ a month ago, Saturday marked the culmination of their coronation. January has been a turning point in Migos’s career, whereby they’ve gone from rap stars to Rock Stars, artists who have been featured on the cover of music magazines like “The Fader” and “XXL” to artists who could very well grace the cover of “GQ” by year’s end. There’s currently a petition circulating for them to replace Lady Gaga as performers at the Super Bowl halftime show. How they’ve gotten to this point is itself a master class in how to leverage a fortuitously timed gift and turn momentum into transformation.
By now, the story of how Migos’s month began is probably familiar: On Jan. 8, when Donald Glover accepted the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy television series for his series “Atlanta,” he thanked Migos, “not for being in the show, but for making ‘Bad and Boujee.’” He called it “the best song ever.” The next day, the single, which was released in October, hit number one on the Billboard Singles chart.
The gift from Glover begot requests from late night shows. And nine days later, Migos performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” their most high profile and mainstream appearance to date. Then, this past weekend, they released “Culture,” played an album-release show at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, and gave the course at NYU.
That Migos, an Atlanta trap group, spent the weekend of their album release in New York is a testament both to the continuing star-making importance of the city and to Migos’s savviness. Though the nucleus of hip-hop aesthetics and innovation has moved south (to Atlanta) and west (to Los Angeles), the bulk of the entertainment media remains in New York. At each stop throughout Migos’s weekend, a flock of journalists followed. The narrative was obvious: Migos has arrived.
It’s a narrative that’s hard to dispute. “Culture” immediately became the number one album in the world. And, in a word, Saturday’s show was lit: Between the eight hundred romping fans — a good deal of whom, it should be noted, were white teens — and the thick clouds of sticky smoke, no crevice of the Highline Ballroom was left unoccupied. Fans stood on couches, sat on shoulders, pushed and pivoted just to get a glimpse of Migos swagger around the stage.
And though Migos only performed for an hour and didn’t incorporate any flashy light or stage theatrics, they put on quite the show. The most noteworthy moment was when they performed the song “Get Right Witcha” and brought out producer Zaytoven, who played the Keytar. But even that bit of pomp was unnecessary. Migos is compelling purely as a Cerberus. The way Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset augment each other with trap hollers (“skkrt,” “grrah”) and build layered texture is enjoyable on recorded tracks, but immaculate live. The response to a call is automatic and the synchronicity of their voices is as natural as the three keys on a trumpet.
Migos’s popularity stems in great part from the contagion of such layers. Scream the word “Raindrop” in a crowd of millennials and the response will not be to look up to the sky but to scream “Droptop!” These words ostensibly have nothing to do with each other, but given context through “Bad and Boujie,” they feel like a divined pair — as do hands in the air and heads nodding when the song comes on.
“Bad and Boujee” is not Migos’s first viral sensation. They garnered a Drake remix with their 2013 single “Versace” and coined “dabbing” with their 2015 single, “Look at My Dab.” They claim to be able to make a hook out of anything — and, indeed, on Saturday afternoon they improvised a hook based on the prompt of “Febreze” (“A can of Febreze / Cookies make you sneeze / told that bitch to freeze”). Each member of the group is 25 or younger, so there’s reason to think that they will continue churning out hits for many years to come.
But we live in strange times. Never has the political been more pervasive. And while Migos’s music plays an age-old function (escapism about sex, drugs, and luxury), and one that has certainly been especially profitable in past conservative presidencies (Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s in particular), it remains to be seen whether being apolitical and materialistic in this time will be sustainable.
During an audience Q&A at the NYU course, one member of the crowd got up and said, “You guys are really influential in terms of pop culture right now. Do you plan on utilizing that platform to address a lot of the political and racial injustices that’s going on today?”
“I think we need to get our foundation a little bit stronger to start talking about that,” Quavo answered.
That was insufficient for the man who asked the question. “You guys got it right now, man,” he said. “And all this shit is happening right now. You guys doing it for the culture, yo, this is our culture, yo. You gotta speak on that bro.”
The audience applauded and Quavo said, “At least I know I got you guys behind me now, so let’s do it.”
Source: New feed