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Review: With Culture III, Migos Doubles Down on Excess to Diminishing Returns

There’s as much lazy delivery of the goods on the album as there is engaging interplay.

Migos, Culture III
Photo: Kenneth Cappello

True to its title, Culture III finds Migos continuing to reflect the current moment in pop culture, referencing Covid-19 (most notably on “Vaccine,” wherein the trio brags of “making money in quarantine”), name-checking Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, and paying homage to their recently deceased peers Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD. “Type Shit,” the title of which has a stupid-smart double meaning—as in, “this type of shit” and also typing shit—shows how the trio, at their best, feed off one another, with Takeoff and Quavo trading verses before Offset (and guest Cardi B) pipes in. But at 19 songs and well over an hour runtime, there’s as much lazy delivery of the goods on Culture III as there is engaging interplay.

The group too often leans on Quavo, ever the inert and listless frontman, to disaffectedly bleat a chorus and a verse, with Takeoff and Offset turning in requisite verses that feel disconnected from each other, as on the dreary “Birthday” and “Time for Me.” The crew is all family—Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle and Offset’s cousin—but they rarely emphasize this neat and colorful part of their personal mythology. The three rappers would much rather focus on anonymous genre signposts of money, diamonds, and women, occasionally gesturing to their humble beginnings making and selling crack (already well trod on the first Culture’s hit “Bad and Boujee”).

There are hints on the album of Migos broadening the thematic scope of the Culture series, like some unexpected political thoughts from Takeoff, who, with his twangy baritone and lucid flow, has long been an essential ingredient to the group’s secret sauce. On “Handle My Business,” he extolls the virtues of his jewel- and drug-saturated life before effectively critiquing police racism and the Grammy Awards. But Migos is, first and foremost, most interested in partying, and on that level, the album has enough genuinely incendiary anthems to fuel Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlist for a while, a space they essentially created. “Straightenin,” with its rattling keys and woodwinds, and “Need It,” energized by a dynamic guest spot from YoungBoy Never Broke Again, are testaments to their easy charms.

The album’s lug-headed theatricality is ultimately winning, from the grandiose violins of “Antisocial” and “Why Not,” to the trio’s habit of announcing their own names whenever it’s their turn to hold the floor, to their blind confidence that if they doggedly inundate us with a hook it will eventually stick (see the endless repetition on “Jane” and “Mahomes”). But in all the excess, one is nonetheless left wanting more—better fleshed-out personas or a glint of a new stylistic direction rather than a doubling down on committee-tested beats and a formulaic approach. The end result is more diminishing returns for Migos’s Culture series.

Label: Quality Control/Motown Release Date: June 11, 2021 Buy: Amazon

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