“We the greatest. We are the culture, the flow you stole,” Offset wrote in the caption of an old photo of the Migos. It was a random Saturday in June 2020 and the claim seemed unprovoked, but it opened the door to an interesting conversation.
“Ya’ll kinda fell off bro, no cap,” one user commented. Offset then responded, “How? The last album Migos put out did 200K first week.”
Offset is correct. The trio’s last studio album, Culture II, which was released in January 2018, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its first week and was certified double platinum by the end of the year. But over the last three years, the Migos’ musical output as a group has diminished, with just a few mildly received singles and placements on various movie soundtracks. 2020’s “Racks 2 Skinny” and “Taco Tuesday” both failed to reach the Hot 100 chart, while “Need It” featuring NBA YoungBoy peaked at No. 62 and the Travis Scott and Young Thug-assisted “Give No Fxk” just made it inside the top 50, at No. 48.
The Migos are still one of the most influential rap groups of the last decade, but their current slow era has raised questions about their future. The group hasn’t necessarily “fallen off” as that one user suggested, but their hype has cooled off, leading some to question whether they can re-create their run from the 2010s.
The long road to Migos’ Culture III has a lot to do with mounting doubt stemming from the trio’s current moment. While the wait period between the first and second installments of the Culture series was just one year, Culture III has been in the works for nearly three years and has endured several delays. Quavo first teased C3 in an October 2018 interview, hinting that it would drop “at the top of 2019.” By March 2019, Takeoff updated fans that the album was still on the way. The following year, Quavo revealed the project was pushed back once again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Dropping music and all that, it’s at a standstill right now with us because we need to go out there and touch the people to push our albums to make our music work,” he said.
Prior to COVID, though, the Migos were already losing momentum as a group. Culture II was a commercial success, but critics dragged the 24-track album for being too long. The trio also pursued solo careers during this time, an experiment that received mixed reactions. In October 2018, Quavo kicked off the group’s string of solo albums with Quavo Huncho. Then Takeoff followed with The Last Rocket in November and Offset released Father of 4 in February 2019. All three albums charted on the Billboard 200 (Quavo Huncho debuted at No. 2, while The Last Rocket and Father of 4 debuted at No. 4), which could be credited to their prior success and intrigue as a group. Still, each solo project came with drawbacks and failed to move the needle on Migos’ legacy. Quavo Huncho was bloated and even Quavo admitted in a 2020 interview that he could’ve produced a better album. “I tried to club too much on my album, and I didn’t give them nothing personal,” he explained. “If I would’ve went a little personal, I think my album would have been a little better.” Offset’s album, which was being marketed as a more personal project, also fell short of expectations. Though he managed to show his humanity with anecdotes about fatherhood and his relationships, the music itself sounded redundant, and the monotonous production came across as generic. Takeoff’s The Last Rocket showcased his technical skill, agile flow, and lyrical finesse, but it lacked individuality and the majority of the tracks felt like unfinished Migos songs rather than Takeoff’s solo project. For the most part, the solo projects were a failed experiment.
When it comes to overall relevance, the Migos’ actual music has been overshadowed by the starpower of two of its members over the past few years, as they’ve shown an interest in pursuing opportunities outside of music. In February 2020, Quavo made his acting debut in Season 2 of Narcos: Mexico, and he is set to make his first feature film appearance in the upcoming thriller Wash Me in the River, opposite Robert De Niro. Offset is also getting into acting, appearing in NCIS: Los Angeles last March and hosting his own Quibi show called Skrrt With Offset. It’s no surprise the Migos have their sights set on Hollywood, as they previously spoke about writing scripts and acting in 2017. Along the way, they’ve been a heavy presence in headlines, as Offset became a spectacle of national tabloids over his relationship drama with Cardi B, and Quavo’s former romance with rapper Saweetie was a hot topic of online gossip amid their recent breakup.
They’re certainly trendsetters who deserve props for creating the triplet flow, catchphrases, and ad-libs that many artists adopt today, but a lot has happened in rap since the Migos slowed their musical output. Failing to flood the market with more of their sound, they opened the door for imitation acts to take their place. Since they broke through in 2013, many major artists have used their flows, (and the Migos have pointed this out throughout the years) but it was much easier for fans to spot the fake when the group was continuously releasing music. It’s still happening today, as artists are putting new spins on their sound and creating something fresh and exciting. Some of them may be biting the Migos, but they’re also filling a void left by the group who started the trend.
The latter half of the 2010s belonged to the Migos, but as we enter the new decade, it looks like another Quality Control artist is taking the spotlight. It’s no question that Lil Baby is the hottest artist on QC right now, as he’s having a major run with the recent success of My Turn and “The Bigger Picture.” Of course, several artists on a label can succeed simultaneously, but have the Migos fallen too far behind to catch up?
The trio have yet to announce the official date for their next album, but there is still an opportunity for them to come back stronger than ever. They could be just one hit away from catching fire again. In fact, a snippet Offset teased on Instagram has already garnered some excitement from fans. If they want to seize the moment, though, they’ll need to tap back into what captivated fans at the height of their careers in 2017. That means dropping a concise project with no more than 14 tracks. Culture III should feel familiar—incorporating the Migos’ original trap sound with catchy hooks, memorable one-liners, and the group’s tight chemistry—backed by production from collaborators like Metro Boomin, OG Parker, Cardo, and Mike Dean. Culture III should also be refreshing, though. They’re at their best when they settle into their comfort zone, but this album offers a great opportunity for them to collaborate with newer artists in and outside of their realm. A Migos and Bobby Shmurda collaboration could dominate the summer and would be a nice preview to a Shmigo Gang tape, and linking up with an artist like Mulatto could be an interesting way of uniting ATL’s booming music scene. On the R&B and trap side, artists like Don Toliver and 6lack would also make for exciting collaborations, potentially breathing new life into their sound.
Quavo has already promised their next chapter will be memorable. “It’s time to wake the world up,” he told Billboard. Hopefully they keep that promise, because should they fumble this return, fans likely won’t be as gracious this time around.