“Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace,” chanted Quavo on Migos’ rather obviously-titled breakout single. “Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace.”
The year was 2013, and with the pristine trap production of Zaytoven and blessing of a remix verse and virtual co-sign from the ever-influential Aubrey Drake Graham, Migos had become part of the zeitgeist. Quavious “Quavo” Marshall, the group’s de facto leader, had the hooks and Jagger factor. Offset (Quavo’s cousin) and Takeoff (Quavo’s nephew) were coming into their own as verse-churning workhorses. Four years later, with the release of their second studio album and international super-success of the “Bad and Boujee” single, Migos became the Culture.
Culture II, released exactly 364 days after its predecessor, is the group’s attempt to maintain their current status of royalty in an era of constant music and worsening attention spans. The Migos solution? A 24-track, 1 hour and 45-minute album carried by unwavering energy, ad-libs and high-profile guest appearances. Both thrilling and verbose, Culture II confirms the validity of the trio’s ability while bringing to question whether or not they know when to stop.
The marathon of an album brilliantly strides through the opening six-song stretch from “Higher We Go (Intro)” to the Drake-featured “Walk It Talk It.” “Narcos,” the project’s third track, finds the group in their finest, Escobarian comfort zone. “Straight out the jungle,” signs Quavo on the passionate hook. “This real rap no mumble (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)/ My skin black like mamba (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah).” “BBO,” with gorgeous production from Buddah Bless, Quavo, DJ Durel and Kanye West, is a chilled-out victory lap driven by a 21 Savage hook.
“AP on me, iced out, tennis chains iced out,” raps Savage. “Whole pointers ’round my neck, looking like a lighthouse.”
Twenty-four songs is a lot for an album, especially when not a single track is under 3 minutes in length (“Gang Gang” runs for 3:01). The reason for the extended length is, however, understandable. Seeking to prevent another do-it-look-like-I’m-left-off-bad-and-boujee type moment, all three members of Migos need their space to shine as well as the additional time added on by guest features. “Auto Pilot (Huncho on the Beat),” which is both produced and largely performed by Quavo, is a cardinal example of Culture II‘s problematic excessiveness. A dynamic Quavo opens the song at his mightiest.
“Chopper ring, drumline, Nick Cannon,” raps Huncho himself before facing a predicament. “Hundred racks in the Gucci fanny/ 12 behind me in a Pontiac, damn it.”
After Quavo’s hook-verse-hook, “Auto Pilot” is already around 2:15 in length. If the song were cut at this mark, it would serve as the type of “Gucci Gang”-esque, ADHD-friendly banger. Instead, verses from both Takeoff and Offset as well as two more hooks from Quavo extend the runtime to 4:48.
Listener fatigue makes it difficult to appreciate the stretch of feature-less tracks in between “White Sand” and “MotorSport,” which offers worthy tracks in “Flooded,” “Beast” and “Open It Up.” Inspired by the charismatic bars of Cardi B, Culture II grabs a paper cup filled with water at about mile 22, chugs it, and finishes the marathon strong. On “Notice Me,” Post Malone’s chilly hook shines brightest.
“Saint Laurent on both my feet,” brags Post. “All this jewelry, they gon’ notice me.”
Despite never running a marathon myself, I can imagine the experience is in some ways similar (and in most ways not at all) to listening to Culture II. The opening five or six miles is a glorious high propelled by self-admiration and determination before the realization around mile twelve or so that the race isn’t even half way over. You cross the finish line exhausted, finished and, somehow, content.