'Culture III' Ends Migos' Trilogy with More of the Same
Published Jun 15, 2021Georgia's three-headed monster of triple-time flows (and more showy ice than those girls from Frozen) delayed the long-awaited third and final installment of their Culture trilogy because each member wanted to drop a solo project and because a worldwide pandemic would chuck a wrench in the splashy rollout for a project destined to bang summer parties and rolled-windows cruises. At last, Migos' Culture III is finally here, and it supplies everything fans would want and expect from the bando bandits-gone-glittery mainstream. For better or worse.
Quavo, Offset and Takeoff start things off with a wonderful curveball in opener "Avalanche." The decidedly un-trap and entirely hook-free opener samples the Temptations' 1972 hit "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," a nod to single-mother upbringings and the size of the rocks now weighing down their wrists and necks. It's a grown-ass banger that has already reaped praise from Jay-Z. The lurching "Having Our Way" is dominated by another quotable verse by Drake, who's basically the unofficial fourth Migo at this point.
But by the time the third track, "Straightenin," hits, we are plunged into familiar territory: AutoTuned rhymes about cars, jewels, and cocaine bricks; hypnotic, repetitive choruses; quirky onomatopoeia adlibs; and those "weird little flute" flourishes that Saturday Night Live parodied this season. "Jane" is another vintage Migos selection. Its bare-bones hook ("She want a Birkin / I told her, 'Work it'" repeated eight times) boils male-female relationships down to a sex-for-gifts exchange, but it's also catchy as hell in a "Walk It Talk It" way.
The Migos formula works, to be sure. But it's those occasional reaches outside the tried and true — be it beats or collaborators — that make for a more compelling listen, even if they don't always smack the mark. The staccato flows of "Malibu," featuring Chicago's Polo G, work wonders atop producer Pooh Beatz, horn punches. The skillful arrogance of Murda Beatz street track "Modern Day" bristles with three of the most urgent individual verses on the project. And "Picasso," featuring a lengthy chorus by stadium tourmate Future, reminisces on the trio's risky teenagehood.
Trouble is, Culture III suffers from the same issue (albeit to a lesser degree) that plagued 2018's bloated double-disc Culture II. Clocking in at 75 minutes and 19 tracks, the album is simply too dang long. Justin Bieber duet "What You See" is a valiant try but ultimately forgettable, and filler like "Why Not," "Handle My Business" and "Birthday" could've been chopped to save the sagging second half.
Those still nodding their noggins over an hour into the experience will be rewarded with "Light It Up" and its simmering a Brooklyn-style drill beat composed by 808Melo. The soundbed is tailormade for a posthumous cameo from Pop Smoke, and Migos adapt well. Even better is closing track "Need It," featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again. Sure, the single — which cribs 50 Cent's "Get in My Car" — has been kicking around radio for months, but it ends the album on a high note. It's a reminder that eight years after "Versace" put Migos on the radar, the trio still knows how to cook up a summertime banger. (Quality Control/Capitol/Motown/Epic)