Bad and Brilliant
The Atlanta hip-hop trio have not only changed the soundscape of rap, they’ve changed its culture.
By Tyler Fitch, Florida State University
Raindrop, drop top, how exactly did this song climb to the very tiptop?
As I walk out of the infamous Tallahassee watering hole, Potbelly’s, the familiar opening courses through my ears for probably the eighth time that night. Am I complaining? Maybe, but only because I scour culture and hip-hop blogs daily that are so influenced by the talented “nawf” Atlanta trio that I was privy to this gem way before it turned into the second best meme* of 2017. (*Side-note, Salt Bae is far and away number one.)
In addition to its meme fame, Donald Glover’s thanking Migos for making arguably “the best song ever” in his acceptance speech at Golden Globes further escalated the hit’s status. Glover also shared another remark about Migos, one so astute that Migos themselves re-stated it on “Commando.” The group, according to some, are this generation’s Beatles.
In 2009, three young men, Quavo (Quavious Marshall), Takeoff (Kirshnik Ball) and Offset (Kiari Cephus), founded Migos in the belly of Atlanta. Takeoff is Quavo’s nephew, while Offset is Quavo’s cousin, and a family dynamic is evident in their music, as they frequently finish each other’s rhymes, mimic each other’s flows and, most amusingly, act as their cohorts’ hype men.
“Fire in The Booth,” a recent freestyle for Charlie Sloth’s radio show in the U.K., exemplifies how each member feeds off the others, and you can clearly see how comfortable they are around one another.
Migos rose to prominence in 2013, a turbulent year for hip-hop that saw a group by the name of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis brainwash the masses into thinking “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us” and “Same Love” belonged on the top fifteen of the Billboard Hot 100, with the first two songs peaking (!) at number one. (*I’m not a monster; “Same Love” is a beautiful song, and I love songs that show emotion in the otherwise testosterone-fueled musical space, but Macklmore is just awful.)
A disappointing album from Eminem, a cringe-worthy, radio-friendly effort from ASAP Rocky, and a literal WTF of sounds from Kanye, 2013 was a rap vacuum, defined by a palpable lack of direction and a slowly stagnating soundscape. Then, “Versace” came out.
At first an underground hit, popular mainly in strip clubs, Drake decided to hop on a remix of the song, not only turning “Versace” into a nationwide hit, but imitating the “Migo flow” on his verse, and taking it for his own chart-topping hit, “Started from the Bottom.”
Migos: “Bigger than Jesus”
When Migos first burst on the scene, you could say that their style was eccentric—tight black pants, Versace shirts and more chains than you could count on one hand were hallmarks of their style. The group’s exuberance ushered forth a wave of rappers “stunting” on camera.
Though showmanship in hip-hop certainly has a storied past, the amount of chains bouncing off the trio’s necks was downright comical, and time needed to pass before they would have a more significant impact on the culture.
While each of the members did stints in jail, with Offset having the longest of the sentences (behave!), the group still managed to introduce a sensation that has reached the NFL and English Premier League. I’m talking of course about “the dab.” Intentionally founded in the 2015 song “Look At My Dab,” the move, which essentially mirrors the movement of sneezing into your arm, created a visual manifestation of “swag.” To prove how far the cultural artifact transcended its trap beginnings, look no farther than Hillary Clinton’s dab, a sad, if well-intentioned attempt to connect with the youth vote.
Around the same time as “the dab” was exploding, Migos made what could turn out to be the most intelligent move of them all; they signed to Kanye West’s management team. Almost overnight, each of the three dropped the flash in favor of a simpler, more casual look, a play on words of Travis Scott’s style, kind of. Look at the music video for “T-Shirt” if you want further clarification.
Where the Migos will go from here is something fans of the super group will have to wait and see, but the amount of impact they have had in such a short time is an indicator that they might be something special.
Their largest hit to date, “Bad and Boujee,” has over 170 million views on YouTube, (Lil Uzi may enjoy a career bump akin to Ludacris’ verse on “Baby”); artists continually seek out the trio for features on songs (Quavo has begun branching himself off as a solo artist, doing features separate from the group, as evidenced by the magnificent “Congratulations” off my favorite album off 2016, Post Malone’s “Stoney”); and up-and-coming rappers continually steal the flow, persona and “dab.” The only question is, when will the next raindrop drip drop for us to enjoy?