CULTURE III: Latest Migos Album Balances Signature Sound with Strong Features

Three years is a long time to wait for an album, and when a musical act goes for an extended
period without releasing a project there’s a natural rise in expectation from fans that the
anticipated project will raise the bar. While the Migos’ latest release, Culture III, offers little that
we haven’t already heard in terms of style and sound, it is a solid offering that creates an
almost-nostalgic feel of 2017-18 when the group was hitting the peak of their run, and is
bolstered by several excellent features as well as a couple tracks that hit new depths in terms of
emotion and vulnerability.

The project is not brief, containing a total of nineteen tracks and clocking in at an hour and
fifteen minutes of total play time, which is actually considerably shorter than their previous
Album, Culture II, but longer than the first Culture album. Lengthy projects seem to work in the
group’s favor, and while not all the tracks jump out as memorable, to the Migos credit none of
the songs are duds either. It is an album that can be listened to front to back without boredom
setting in, with roughly half the songs falling into the category of adequate and the other half
ranging from good to excellent. This should be appreciated, especially in a time when longer
albums have become a strategic move for many artists as an easy way to accumulate more
streams. Unfortunately, this approach often comes at the price of lowering the overall quality of
the album in exchange for a greater quantity of songs, and there have been plenty of examples in
recent years of big artists releasing projects that have been bloated with songs that in a different
age would have rightly been left on the cutting board. Fortunately for the Migos, who are
notorious for how fast and efficiently they record, there are no such tracks to be found here, and
the biggest complaint one could make is that many of the songs sound almost too similar to what
we have already heard. However, if you’re a Migos fan, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It’s easy to forget, but when Migos ascended to the top of the rap game roughly half a decade
ago, the sonic scope of hip hop was considerably different than it is now. As they came up, the
likes of Migos, Travis Scott, and Young Thug pioneered a shift in sound centered around
emphasized adlibs and autotune-bending melodies that pushed trap music into the mainstream
and influenced the sound of the greater pop genre overall. Migos occupied a unique space during
this era, with the more melodic-leaning vocals of Quavo and the staccato delivery of Takeoff and
Offset creating a signature style that set them apart from other artists they were collectively
rising with. When one remembers how unique the Migos sound was back then, they are liable to
appreciate Culture III more, even though the freshness of the sound is somewhat diminished due
to the fact that it contrasts less with what we hear on a regular basis today. “If it ain’t broke, don’t
fix it” seems to be an underlying theme in both Culture III’s overall sound and message, with a
significant portion of the tracklist sounding interchangeable with tracks from either of the first
two Culture albums, and multiple instances where one of the members reminds listeners that they
paved the way for the new generation of rappers that have since they rose to fame.

While the Migos themselves don’t bring much to the table sonically that they aren’t already
known for, they do more than enough to silence the growing whispers from those who had
criticized their more sporadic recent work as being lackluster and indicating they were falling
off. Takeoff and Offset work great in tandem together, hitting tracks hard with quick and clever
bars, only pausing to allow their iconic adlibs to be emphasized. While Quavo has never been the strongest lyrically, he does what he does best, creating catchy autotune-drenched melodies that
serve as a counterweight to the rapid delivery of the other two. A nice variety of features
including Drake, Polo G, Justin Beiber, and Future are distributed throughout the album and
change up the flavor, which helps keep the album from becoming monotonous. Each feature
serves a purpose beyond simply having a big name to attract a wider audience. Cardi B delivers a
strong verse that is on par with Offset and Takeoff on the track “Type Shit”, Future’s appearance
on “Picasso” pairs excellently with Quavo, and in both cases they sound more like an extension
of the Migos rather than guests. Justin Beiber’s chorus on “What You See” creates a softer sound
than what the Migos are typically known for, and all three members use it as an opportunity to
show their more vulnerable side and contemplate the uncertainty that comes with catching
feelings. Posthumous appearances by Juice WRLD on “Antisocial” and Pop Smoke on “Light It
Up” are also excellent additions. “Antisocial” is another rare instance of the Migos becoming
more somber, reflecting on tragedies they have experienced and wondering if things will get
better. “Light It Up” may be the first time the group have tackled a drill beat, which they do
expertly and hopefully will do again. Pop Smoke’s verse makes the change in beat style fit in
better with the rest of the album’s tracklist, and creates the same level of intensity that he was
regularly bringing to tracks before his passing. Both are among the album’s best tracks, and feel
special since they both feature artists that tragically passed away far sooner than they should

Overall, it is hard to find any faults in Culture III, it is an easy album to listen to and contains
plenty of highlightable moments. While the buzz Migos created when they first rose to fame can
never be fully recreated, this album proves that they won’t be falling off any time soon, and are
still near the top of a rap podium that has largely become more crowded due to the wave they
created. Is the album revolutionary? No, but that isn’t due to a lack of quality within the project.
Rather, it is because the revolution already took place when the Migos were pioneering their
sound five years ago. They already created the lane. Culture III is a statement that the lane is still
theirs, and they’re still driving in it.

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