SEQUELS ARE TOUGH. Arguably they set a higher burden of proof than the dreaded sophomore LP, since attaching a "II" to a title implies that you have more to say on the same subject a second time around. Everyone wants to be The Godfather, but most people end up like The Matrix.
So it is with great pleasure that I report that Culture II, the latest Migos outing, is much better than The Matrix Reloaded, if not as good as The Godfather 2, or, more importantly, the first Culture. On that record, the Migos were high on their own talent; on the sequel, they're higher on their own success, which doesn't carry them to quite the same altitude. Even so, Culture II accomplishes the impressive feat of staying fun and engaging across its sprawling 105 minutes. The Migos have proved their vision of culture is worthy of a franchise.
The trio is coming off a stellar 2017 that saw each member grow in exciting ways. Offset made a stellar mixtape with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin, then got engaged to the talented Cardi B. Quavo cut his teeth as a producer with Travis Scott in their side project Huncho Jack. And Takeoff… Takeoff just got better. He was a force to be reckoned with on the last record, but on Culture II he's the MVP, out-rapping both his counterparts with a contagious charisma.
But if the Migos have changed personally, their interests have not. Culture II, like Culture, is all about trapping, cars, and luxury items, though the ratio may have shifted more towards the latter in the past year. To their credit, the group is aware of this and isn't afraid to joke about it—see the playful "Too Much Jewelry", which is exactly what you'd imagine it to be. Still, if anything ways Culture II down, it's the seemingly endless listing of possessions. Watches, sports cars, designer clothes—whatever "culture" is, the Migos certainly think this stuff is a part of it.
The group's success has also given them nearly unlimited access to A-list talent. The Migos land beats from Kanye West and Pharrell and features from Drake, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Big Sean, Gucci Mane… I could go on. Surprisingly, most of these are pretty good. Offset's fiancé Cardi B steals the show on lead single "MotorSport", which proves that she still has plenty to offer. The Kanye-produced "BBO (Bad Bitches Only)" is a smooth and soulful standout that recaptures the chemistry of Offset's collaboration with 21 Savage. The Pharrell-produced single "Stir Fry" slinks by with funky grace. And 5 years after he propelled them into the spotlight with his Versace remix, Drake meets the Migos as equals on the solid "Walk It Talk It."
Of course, Offset, Quavo, and Takeoff can hold their own just fine without outside help. The two most interesting tracks on Culture II are feature-free. "Gang Gang" is an uncharacteristically introspective posse anthem. It shows that Takeoff is capable of much more than the classic Migos-triplet flow. Later on, all three move through the slow jam "Made Men" with style. Both tracks exhibit the Migos in ways we've never heard them before. These guys are versatile are versatile—it's a shame they only show it on a quarter of their hour and forty-five-minute album.
Most of these songs are good, some even very good, and you'll be sure to hear many of them pouring from car windows or blaring in clubs. At least six of them should have been cut. This isn't because they're bad tracks, but rather because they add nothing that isn't already there. More importantly, the magic of Culture hasn't fully migrated to its sequel. It must be said: nothing on Culture II is as good as "Bad and Boujee" or "T-Shirt" (curiously, Nard & B, the team behind "T-Shirt's" hypnotic beat, are nowhere on this album). As such, there's a slight but inescapable feeling of disappointment throughout this record.
Migos have mastered their craft, but they spend too much time delivering what we expect instead of exploring their more interesting caprices. They have the talent and they have our attention—we'll see what they do with it on Culture III. B