The Curious Case of Takeoff: I went into Culture II thinking I knew the Migos pecking order… I was mistaken
I’ve been a fan of the Migos for a few years now. I won’t profess and say I’m their number one stan, that’s been riding with them since their YRN mixtape days, but I think I’m well versed enough to be considered a fan and follower of their wave. Especially from around summertime 2016.
Since about September 2016, when I first heard their smash hit Bad and Boujee, the Migos have been on a relentless tear of the the rap game and culture. Now I know people are gunna read this and think “Oh, what about Versace? What about Hannah Montana? What about Fight Night?”, and although I do agree these were all commercially successful songs, and helped elevate the trio to household name status (both in The States and over here) they were no Bad and Boujee. Number #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (the ultimate measure of success I know), 4x platinum in the US, platinum in OZ, gold in the UK, New Zealand and France as well as 800 million+ streams globally. There are definitely levels to this shit.
That brings me to the point of this article. I was under the impression that the hierarchy and pecking order of Migos was well established before Culture and even after, to some extent.
Now, I need you to imagine back to (pre)Culture. Bad and Boujee, T-Shirt and then Culture itself. Quavo was the charismatic head huncho (and he still appears to be, more or less) with his hook game near perfected and a contagious way of rapping/singing. Offset was the one with a great flow, pretty decent bars and some of the funniest adlibs I’ve ever heard (please see their Fire in the Booth) and then there was Takeoff, who was just the other one. Yeah his flow has always been tight and we’ve seen him have the best verse numerous times but he was never that memorable to me – being left off Bad and Boujee in place of Uzi Vert definitely didn’t help this perception. I’m here to say 1) I was wrong and 2) shits changed quickly!
Off the back of Culture came a myriad of features, solo projects, collaborations, cameos and videos. Migos were everywhere and there was nothing we could do but enjoy the ride and wait patiently for their next move. In the curious case of Takeoff, the straw that broke the camels back and helped open my ears was his verse on I Get The Bag (w/ Gucci Mane & Quavo). Obviously his efforts on T-Shirt, Get Right Withca and Kelly Price (“Two piece chicken wing without the FRIIEEESSS”) are not to be understated but for exactly 48 seconds, Takeoff literally takes off and puts everyone on notice that he’s almost definitely the best pure spitta in the group:
Not from L.A. but I clip her (brr)
Double my cup, pour a triple (Actavis)
Fox on my body, no Vivica (fox on my)
I’m not your average or typical (I’m not your)
Look at my wrist, and it’s critical (look at the)
Hold it up, droppin’ the temperature (droppin’ the)
He eats the entire verse (and song) without looking like he broke a sweat or took a breath in the process. Even before I Get The Bag, there was his single Intruder which again is just ridiculous. His feature on Calvin Harris’ summer jam Holiday (with quite esteemed company in Snoop Dogg, John Legend and the world famous DJ), Mike WiLL Made-It’s Gucci On Me (with contributions from 21 Savage and YG) and Lil Yatchy’s Peak A Boo (with his brothers in arms). The last three all share a common feature – they all include all three members of Migos and the result is the same every time. Takeoff has the best verse, showing his versatility as well as pure rapping ability.
Before I go any further, I don’t want you to think that I consider Takeoff a ‘top 10 rapper’ and he’s by no means going to take Kendrick’s or Drake’s crown but his rise to prominence cannot be denied. His elevation from just ‘the other one’ to possibly the most dexterous Migos is no more evident than on Culture II.
Before we deep-dive into the trios latest offering it’s important to cite the song MotorSport as the moment where Takeoff officially overtook his peers. Tucked away right at the end of the song (maybe due to streaming ahead of merit), after Quavo, after Offset, after Cardi, and after Nicki, Takeoff delivers not only the best verse out of the three but arguably the best verse on the entire track. Yes, there will be hoards of people that will say Nicki and some even Cardi but when you hear what he’s saying and better still when you realise it’s a reply to Nicki’s verse opinions have been known to shift (please see me).
Ain’t make no commitment with none of you bitches
‘Cause money is treatin’ me well (uh uh)
If Nicki should show me her titty
Right hand on the Bible, I swear I won’t tell (swear)
If I get to play with that kitty
I wonder how many platinums we gon’ sell (albums)
Being the lead single off the album, this was an early indication of a changing of the guard for me. Enter Culture II. Now although it has come under a lot of scrutiny due to it’s length, there are two things that people need to realise: 1) This is the nature of the times we live in. Streaming is everything. Long gone are the days of shorter LPs, now is the time of the 18+ song project and endless singles from your favourite artists. 2) It’s actually not that samey. I can confidently say that there are at least 15 songs that I fuck with. About 7 of which are still on heavy rotation, which is a decent enough hit rate for me. What’s more is the fact that of the 15 that I fuck with Takeoff is the standout performer in most of them.
There seems to have been a realisation that he is the most talented Migos, somewhere between September 2016 and when they first started recording songs for Culture II. It was clear that more of an onus would be placed on Takeoff. His contribution is heard a lot more clearly through this album than it’s prequel and I can reel off verse after verse, or 4-bar after 4-bar, where Takeoff easily steals the show. I won’t bore you with my new found obsession, but I will tell you that if you don’t believe what I’m saying all you need to do is listen to the song Made Men.
Not Toby, but we slave for it (not Toby)
No Kunta Kinte, but we slave for it (no Kunta Kinte)
I waited some days for it (days)
Secure the bag, my niggas, they spray for it (brrrp)
Supply a sea of Ac’, think I got a taste for it (argh)
She bad, but I already smashed, so she get ignored (smashed)
These bitches open heart, they quick to open doors (open)
On my G5 I can soar, I like to explore (explore)
Havin’ trouble pick a outfit that I haven’t worn (haven’t)
Havin’ everything in store and got plenty more (plenty)
Made Men is, for me, the best song on the album (yeah I said it Stir Fry fans and Superstar jockeys). It just is. And the main reason that is, is because Takeoff is allowed to set the pace of the song. Hook, verse and hook a couple more times for good measure. The lyrics of the song are ones that resonate and breed an air of accomplishment for the trio but, most importantly for Takeoff. If I was to equate these three to football I would look no further than Pep’s Barca team (and specifically his front three), that won the UEFA Champions League back in 2009. You have Henry, Eto’o and Messi. All accomplished players in their own right that all bring different things to the table. Before that season Messi (who I’ll be equating to Takeoff) only scored 16 goals in all comps. The next season, the season they won the Champs League, he scored more than double that amount (38 goals in all comps). What changed, you might ask? Well aside from Pep’s ideology taking fruition, the other two superstar players allowed Messi to fully express himself, play to his strengths, and execute all that he had learnt from playing with individuals that had accomplished more than he had, both before Eto’o and Henry, and with them.
And this is what happens on Made Men, Flooded, Top Down on da Nawf, Culture National Anthem, Gang Gang, Auto-Pilot, Too Much Jewelry etc etc. Even if he isn’t the guy delivering the hook, he’s most likely delivers the best verse and if he’s afforded the hook, he eats that too! It appears the other two stars in the group have allowed him to flourish similarly to the way Henry and Eto’o did Messi.
Before you get ahead of yourselves, I’m not saying that Takeoff is Messi (we got a piece on the rap game’s Messi v Ronaldo debate coming) but for arguments sake, I’m confident in declaring him as such. I remember a Thierry Henry interview where he declared Messi the best player at Barcelona back when they had himself, Eto’o, Xavi, Iniesta, Yaya Toure, Puyol, and Marquez all in their prime. Big praise for a player both in the infancy of his career and younger than his teammates. Quavo did the same thing openly on The Breakfast Club when prompted by Charlamagne. Like him, I’ve come to the realisation that Takeoff has now ascended beyond his family and moving forward should be the focal point of the group, the same way Messi was for Pep’s Barca. He may appear meek, reserved and quiet, but it’s the quiet ones you need to watch!