The Unc & Phew Dynasty: Quavo and Takeoff Talk New Album, Migos, and More
Ahead of their debut album as Unc & Phew, 'Only Built For Infinity Links,' Quavo and Takeoff discuss their rap group Mt. Rushmore, a future Migos doc, and more.
Image via Publicist
Quavo and Takeoff are done waiting. While the Migos era has halted with Offset branching away from the group, the Unc & Phew dynasty is just beginning.
“With us, it was really family that kept us strong,” Quavo tells Complex. “They are usually going to try and put people together, and it doesn’t work like that because they don’t fit,” Takeoff expands.
The new duo’s energy reverberates through the Zoom call as they beam about the arrival of their debut album, Only Built For Infinity Links. The project has been over two years in the making. It marks a new chapter for the two Atlanta rappers—revealing more about their origins than any project they’ve released individually or as the Migos.
Quavo and Takeoff studied legendary rap duos of old throughout the album’s conception, and paid homage to them in the cover art and title. They borrowed the black-and-white background from OutKast’s iconic Stankonia cover, the title from Ghostface and Raekwon’s 1995 classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and their poses are meant to resemble Jay-Z and Kanye West during their Watch The Throne era. The title also reflects the modern-day Cuban link, the micro welded infinity link, that is the strongest jewelry link out right now. The name literally translates to how Quavo and Takeoff’s bond is unbreakable and will last forever, like the infinity link.
“It was really family that kept us strong.”
Takeoff added that he reached out to Raekwon via Instagram while working on the album to get the OG’s blessing, and in return, he randomly pulled up to give them the Wu-Tang seal of approval. “So I went up and talked to him and just let him know that we appreciate what he’s done for the culture and what he did for us as a group and that as we branch off as a duo, we’re still following in his footsteps,” he said. “We asked for his blessing, and he was with it and said he loved what we do. It’s been genuine ever since.”
Only Built For Infinity Links puts Quavo and Takeoff’s combined musical abilities on full display. Thanks to over a decade worth of chemistry—the pair first started rapping together as teens under the stage name the Polo Club in the early aughts—Unc & Phew have an air-tight partnership. Takeoff’s pension for elite rhyme-spitting usually anchors tracks, while Quavo’s melodic skills help create gliding hooks. On Only Built For Infinity Links, though, the two take turns switching roles to provide a more unique-sounding album. “On a lot of the Migos records, [Takeoff] would anchor the song,” Quavo explains. “Now on a lot of these records, he comes in and is popping off. We are setting up alley-oops like Trae Young and John Collins!”
This new formula is evident in several moments throughout the album, from the soulful “Infinity” intro to the way the two bounce off of each other’s adlibs on songs like “Bars Into Captions” and the DJ Mustard-assisted “See About It.” Quavo and Takeoff still fall back into the pockets they’re most comfortable in, but Only Built For Infinity Links also exhibits a refreshingly healthy balance of fun experimentation from the duo as well.
We caught up with Unc and Phew to discuss their debut album, their rap group Mount Rushmore, a future Migos documentary, and more.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
I know you’ve been holding this album for roughly two years now. How much tinkering have you done to it since then?
Takeoff: This is a special project, man. There was a lot of tinkering, and to look back at that moment [when we started it] to now, it’s a lot.
Quavo: A lot of collecting marbles and jewels. A lot of collecting information and seeing what’s going on in the streets and in the world. Just sitting back like a young Bruce Wayne and the great Superman, ready to go at any moment.
You two have been making music together since you were young, back in the Polo Club days. What new things did you learn about each other and your musical processes through the making of this album?
Quavo: Just the different hungers we have right now, being in a state where we can be comfortable. Takeoff and I understand that this is a mission that we have to complete. And then us coming together and meshing our abilities: me melodically, and Take aggressively [with bars]. We did that a lot on this album, where I’m on the hook, and Take comes in first. On a lot of the Migos records, he would anchor the song. Now on a lot of these records, he comes in and is popping off. We setting up alley-oops like Trae Young and John Collins! It’s just the oop and dunk, easy.
Takeoff: Like he said, I’m doing some melodic stuff. Even Quavo, he usually does the melodic things and I rap more, but we’re going back to the roots.
The record’s title and cover art also pays homage to two legendary rap albums. How did you land on the name Only Built For Infinity Links, and did you have any conversations with OutKast or Raekwon and Ghostface prior?
Quavo: It all started from a mood board. We went all the way back to the old-school mood board, we put that thing together like a project. We brought all of our pictures together from where we grew up and we wanted to shine a light on how Unc and Phew’s relationship is unbreakable. A Cuban link is one of the hardest links to break, and the modern-day Cuban is an infinity link. And just the word “infinity” obviously means eternity and forever, so when you put that bond together, we looked back and looked up all of the great duos. From basketball duos to musicians to superhero duos, every category.
We went down the list, and Take said, “What about ‘built for infinity links,’” and I thought that was hard breaking down the Wu-Tang set up, and even with the poses. We got the Stankonia background, the title from Raekwon and Ghostface, and the poses came from Watch The Throne.
Takeoff: And I hit up Raekwon on Instagram and got his number and told him I wanted to holler at him. I told him we were cooking up something and wanted to pay homage because we looked up to him and we have a project coming out.
Quavo: Then one night, we’re out at a little sports bar, and Raekwon walks straight in the building. So I went up and talked to him and just let him know that we appreciate what he’s done for the culture and what he did for us as a group, and that as we branch off as a duo, we’re still following in his footsteps. We asked for his blessing, and he was with it and said he loved what we did. It’s been genuine ever since.
The energy in the room must have been crazy at that moment.
Quavo: It fucked me up, because we were literally just sitting at the house talking about the album and looking for him like, “Man, we just got to find Raekwon and talk to him and see if we can get him to do something cool on the album.” He went on tour, so it was hard for him to get in the studio, but we still got to put down the respect and let him know that it wouldn’t even be done if we didn’t have the passageway from him and the big gods.
“People can get lost sometimes, so we have to let them know that we started this and [that] we’re still here.”
“Don’t Change” gives a great snapshot of some of the overarching themes on the album. Why did you choose that as one of the singles?
Takeoff: To let ‘em know how we’re coming and show that we’re taking it back to the basics. We’re taking it back to the basics as far as the sound and how we’re giving it to you. We’re listening to the fans and listening to their opinions, because their opinions really matter to us. If you’ve been here since day one, you know that nothing changed with the bond. There’s a strong meaning behind that title.
You also said in your Rap Radar interview that you wanted this album to inform fans on the origin story that hasn’t been revealed yet. What is one thing you hope listeners take away from the album?
Quavo: We just want them to know that we’re consistent individually, as a duo, and as a group. People always ask for the [Migos] altogether. A lot of people love that, but at the same time, even when we would go off and do our own features and other things, it’s always successful. We’re just learning from each of our lives. Like I said, it was always just about the three of us and living fast and going crazy, now it’s just about giving them the origins and legacy and what we have done. People can get lost sometimes, so we have to let them know that we started this and [that] we’re still here.
Takeoff: I hope they take this project and really dissect it, both the fans who have been there and the people who haven’t, because you gain new fans every day. I hope they listen to it and hear the real fire and hard work that we put into it.
Quavo: There’s also meaning behind every little detail about this album, from tracks 1 through 18. If you read the tracklist, it’s almost like a conversation with the titles. We made sure we made this album feel like a real concert from start to finish. That’s why you can’t skip around. The album has no skips, but when you start from top to bottom, it’s like you’ve been in a real concert. We took it back to the Migos origins, and it sounds like a whole new cultural moment.
There was a line on “Infinity Intro” where Quavo raps: “If it weren’t for P, shit it probably wouldn’t be no me/And if it weren’t for me, shit there probably wouldn’t be QC.” How influential do you think you both have been not just to Quality Control’s growth, but Atlanta rap in general?
Quavo: It all started with a dollar and a dream. QC, Coach [K], and [Pierre] P came in and changed our lives, and we came in and they just had this idea and a studio. He built a studio and didn’t even know what artists would be in there, and it was just the right time. We came in and just started recording, and the only thing he wanted us to do was work, and that’s what we did. We stayed at a mic and created the biggest label in the world.
I drew the QC logo on a napkin. We drew the chains and the logos on a napkin, and so what we are today is just big and a super blessing. Just to be the forerunners of a label and start a machine and see how much talent has come in after us is a blessing. We put our city on the map and a major label on the map, and they also played a big part in our lives. It’s a perfect team.
“I drew the QC logo on a napkin.”
Takeoff: It’s really like a team and real family. They’re with whatever we talk about, and that’s how we create a real bond. We talk about stuff that’s deeper than music, and that’s why we go so hard.
How did “Chocolate” with Young Thug and Gunna come together?
Quavo: It was a crazy night, we were either in Los Angeles or London. We were just sitting there and going crazy. We probably make five or six songs a night whenever we get into the studio together, and that shit just be a good vibe, and “Chocolate” is one of the vibes. Free them guys, man.
Another interesting feature is “Mixy” with Summer Walker. Why did you get her on the album?
Quavo: She Atlanta, man. She represents for the ladies. She is an answer for all the toxic niggas. She the one that gets the guys in check, like a modern-day Erykah Badu. We had to have her, especially on that record too, because it’s called “mixy.” How are you in the mix, but not mixy? We reached that pocket and floated in there.
Takeoff: With a body of work, you have to touch different areas, so that’s just a part of the album where we had to get a little vulnerable and talk to the women.
“There’s Unc & Phew and the Migos, there are so many different lives and different aspects to our docs.”
We were talking about origin stories earlier, and you’ve also talked about having a documentary in the works. What’s the status on the Unc and Phew/Migos doc?
Quavo: That’s what I’m saying! See how you just said there’s Unc & Phew and the Migos, there are so many different lives and different aspects to our docs. We’re in the works right now, just recording everything and getting it ready. This documentary, whether we do it in pieces or as a whole, is so good. It’s 10 years worth of footage, we’ve just been holding it and can’t wait to share it with the world. But right now, we’re going to give them pieces. We’re going to start with the process of this album and work our way down, showing what’s going on today.
Who’s on your rap group Mount Rushmore?
Quavo & Takeoff: You got to have OutKast on there, and Wu-Tang. Us of course, and the Hot Boys. They are the reason we got the ice on.
Quavo: Even with OutKast, their style was totally different from ours, and they made otherworldly music. That’s why we got a special OutKast song on the album. You got to find it in the song, but the track is called “Bars Into Captions.”
The Migos were really the last great modern rap group standing. From your perspectives, do you think rap groups have died, when looking at groups of three or more artists and not duos?
Quavo: With us, it was really family that kept us strong. Sometimes you don’t have strong artists, and it’s hard for all three artists to be superstars [in a group]. And then with time, some of that shit falls off and there’s only one superstar, and then they’re gone.
Takeoff: It’s kind of hard to go find two people that’s family, too, like Unc and Phew. They are usually going to try and put people together, and it doesn’t work like that because they don’t fit.
Are there going to be more Unc and Phew records? And do you plan on dropping any more solo albums?
Quavo: Right now, we’re really just focused on Only Built For Infinity Links. It took so long to get this album to the exact way we wanted it, I feel like we’ll be riding to this shit for a good minute, and then we’re going to figure out what’s the next plan.
Takeoff: This is a special project, so we’re just excited for everyone to hear it.