Review: Migos, ‘Culture III’

The Culture trilogy by the esteemed Atlanta trio concludes on a lukewarm note where the issue is once again quality control.

Few trap artists have had a run quite like the Migos. Their triplet flows and booming beats led the trap renaissance from 2013–17, solidifying their legacy with the sophomore Grammy-nominated album, Culture. The hits came flying in, and took trap to the mainstream. Yet their approach to music has changed ever since the superstardom. Only one project has been released by Migos since 2018, compared to releasing 5 mixtapes in 2014 alone. This part-hiatus was used by Quavo, Takeoff and Offset to kickstart their solo careers, putting out debut albums that were routinely forgettable.

Delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Culture 3 arrives with the intention of taking over the summer. It may be a step up from Culture 2, but is unable to make a splash quite like the first volume.

Culture 3 gets straight to the point with its opening track, “Avalance”. This is no intro, this is an opening song, creatively sampling The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” to show the best personality of Migos – so much that it even is Jay-Z’s standout track. It is when Migos take these risks and combine them with their usual sound where listeners earn their best material, which happens at various points of the album.

“Straightenin” is classic Migos that could’ve fit snugly into the first volume. “Jane” brings the south American influence back from “Narcos” to score another highlight. The pandemic references arrive on “Vaccine” along with an obscure Runescape sample. The trio dabble in drill for the explosive “Light It Up”, featuring the late Pop Smoke who’d formed a close relationship with Quavo before his passing. These moments set the bar on Culture 3, delivering exactly what is asked of Migos. No performer puts a foot wrong, particularly Quavo who returns to form when it comes to his hook game.

While all three Migos show presence on the mic, the standout performances come from Offset. Whenever Offset takes stage it feels like he has a point to prove, nailing his flows and one-liners to make his case for best Migo even stronger.

At 19 tracks, Migos’ issue is once again cramming the suitcase with items you won’t need on holiday. Culture was such a fan favourite as it knew when to stop, serving an all-killer no-filler format of 13 tracks. Culture 2 completely threw the policy out the window with its 23 tracks, falling victim to the double-disc trend of 2018. Culture 3 ever so slightly trims it down, but is still in pursuit of racking up streams through filler (“Why Not”, “Handle My Business”).

There is also an identity crisis at play throughout Culture 3. It is an album that wants to be typical Migos but throws in unnecessary curveballs for the sake of emotion or securing a pop record (“What You See”, “Antisocial”). There are enough surprises that go over well before the trio decide to pack the tracklist with songs that simply do not fit the tone of the album.

Even at its best, Culture 3 struggles to identify a signature song to represent itself. Culture had the Billboard number 1 “Bad & Boujee” while Culture 2 had “Walk It Talk It”. It’s no surprise that Polo G’s Hall of Fame has beat Culture 3 to number 1 with the power of “RAPSTAR” charging its sales. In contrast, Culture 3 doesn’t have that ‘X factor’ single. The closest it comes to is “Need It” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again, which should have been the smash hit Culture 3 required but did not track the top 40.

There is an abundance of potential found within Culture 3. The trios performances are crisper than ever, providing plenty callbacks to their glory days. Yet its bulky build interferes with creating an album that can match the first volume.

6.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Need It”, “Light It Up”, “Straightenin”, “Jane”, “Avalanche”

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