This week, Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, dethroning “Black Beatles,” by Rae Sremmurd. It was an unexpected hit, until it felt inevitable. The song, produced by Metro Boomin, is sneakily catchy, and its power comes from collective excitement: We love it because everyone, in concert, decided to love it. Which means meme-ing about it, and invoking the lyrics at every possible internet moment (see: an insanely incorrect Yahoo Finance tweet and the USS Bad and Boujee.) Once it reached meme status, making crowds in Nigeria lose their minds status, it was destined for success. The long race to the top, which began in August of last year, mimicked the kind of viral moment the Atlanta trio have been able to tap into since the beginning of their careers, in the summer of 2013.
my first time DJing for Migos. this what happened when I played Bad & Boujee in Lagos, Nigeria. pic.twitter.com/AJPP99m8aJ— Dapper Daddy (@JohnTheDapperDJ) December 21, 2016
Offset, Takeoff, and Quavo have been in the cultural consciousness for a little over three years now. Their presence, though, to everyone except the most dedicated fans, has been sporadic. They pop up, unbidden and relentlessly fun, unexpectedly. It’s less a well-defined career arc—think pop stars working in traditional album cycles—and more a stringing together of internet-dominating moments. The downside to that is clear: If at any point over the past three years you asked me if the Migos would still be relevant two years from now, I would have had no way to answer the question. You’d have more luck just flipping a coin.
It would be insulting to characterize Migos one-hit wonders, though. Their breakout track, “Versace,” spawned the influential “Migos flow” (and caused this site to declare Quavo the most influential rapper of 2014…three months into the year). When Drake hopped on the remix, he became the first person to make Migos a viral sensation. However, their biggest songs—“Versace,” “Fight Night”—have a flash in the pan quality to them. You know all the words, but there’s no indication that the group itself will have serious staying power. Theirs is a stardom tailor-made for Twitter.
And Twitter is where much of their odd brand of stardom has coalesced. The hashtag #MigosSaid is a slow-burning internet experience, a reliable format that has kept people talking about the rappers. Sly comparisons to the Beatles placed Migos firmly in the cultural consciousness for a few months spanning 2014 and ‘15. Hyperbole became part of the way we talk about the group—a sort of meta-shorthand for describing the music, a winking declaration that every song is a classic and each member a genius. We collectively decided on their greatness. As Quavo began breaking out as a reliable guest star in 2016, the group benefited from a guest appearance on Atlanta, then an onstage shout out from Donald Glover at the Golden Globes, which spawned further memes, and doubled down on the hyperbole.
There’s no predicting when Migos will pop up—their fame isn’t necessarily tied to their releases—but, at this point, it seems more likely that they’ll do it again than that they won’t. Their internet-overtaking successes often feels more serendipitous than willed, although they’re more than capable of manufacturing it on their own—see The Revenant-inspired imagery in the music video for “T-Shirt.” Still, the question lingers: At what point do we consider Migos true, tested stars?
There’s a striking moment in the Fader’s 2014 profile of the group. Quavo calls the writer over and asks him a straightforward question:
"You feel like we'll be here for a long time?" I look at him kind of stupidly, because the truth is I can't be sure, and when I automatically start to say, "Yes, of course," he interrupts me. "Don't just say it just because, man." Then, after a beat, Quavo asks me again: "How long? How long you think we gonna last?"
If posed to me, even with a No. 1 hit on their hands, my answer to that question would still be a shrug. I have no idea how Migos keeps this going, but I’m starting to grow confident that they will.
With their latest album, Culture, out next week, the conventional narrative goes that the trio has an opportunity to capitalize on their latest round of internet-abetted success. That feels, when looking at their career, like a strangely outdated way to think about Migos. In the wake of Rae Sremmurd’s (somewhat manufactured) success with “Black Beatles,” it’s starting to feel like all hits moving forward might be viral hits. The internet is making its own number ones now, and Migos are uniquely primed to capitalize on that development. Their album could be a critical darling, the kind of project that pushes them to a new level of stardom. If it doesn’t though, it doesn’t feel like a missed opportunity—they’re going to find another way to stay famous. It will be unexpected, and it will be fun.