Migos mixtape marks return of brash underground rap

You can tell a lot about a person by how he or she feels about Migos. After 2013’s “Versace” dropped, critics were quick to position the Atlanta trio as a one-hit wonder whose time in the spotlight was already limited. The group’s flashy aesthetic, bouncy production and distinct flow screamed “novelty act.” Then something remarkable happened—Migos didn’t go anywhere. Each song, mixtape and video the group dropped thereafter was straight fire. Before long, Drake and Kanye West were rapping in triplets in the vein of group members Quavo, Offset and Takeoff.

Those who still look down on Migos’ in-your-face, outlandish spin on Southern hip-hop might as well be the rap game Bill O’Reilly. Members of the old hip-hop guard sound as crotchety complaining about the likes of Migos and Bobby Shmurda as middle-aged parents do talking about how “they just don’t make music like they used to.”

These hip-hop “purists” hated Migos upon arrival, and will definitely hate the group’s latest mixtape Rich N***a Timeline. RNT doubles down on the funny, brash braggadocio that originally endeared listeners to Migos––or turned them off.

The beauty of Migos is the group’s ability to seamlessly integrate a believable street aesthetic with an innate weirdness that is more common in alternative hip-hop circles.

The most obvious comparison to draw is with Migos’ Atlanta predecessors OutKast. On Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the duo was an ill-defined blend of traditional Southern hip-hop in the vein of Underground Kingz and the new wave, psychedelic sound of the West Coast collective Hieroglyphics. By OutKast’s 1998’s Aquemini, it was clear that the duo had opted for the latter.

Migos, however, thrives in the stylistic schism that forced OutKast to choose a side. Rapping about growing up broke and in trap houses, the group maintains a playful exuberance that is uncommon in the normally bleak landscape of Southern hip-hop. In RNT’s lead single “Story I Tell,” Quavo raps, “I just share the rock like I’m John Stockton/African diamonds, Olajuwon, Houston Rockets.”

There have been rappers who have flourished off of harrowing drug-dealing tales, and there have been rappers who succeeded off witty wordplay. It takes something truly transcendent to mesh these two styles seamlessly––whatever it is, Migos has it.

The songs on RNT are definitely more lyrically dense than previous Migos mixtapes; it’s a more challenging listen especially given its 84-minute length. Still, this should silence critics who question Migos’ ability to actually spit bars.

RNT is an exemplary distillation of what Migos is: an authentic, unprecedented and most importantly accessible window into the Atlanta underground. Doubters question Migos’ staying power and originality. If the trio’s recent string of success is any indication, however, doubters need not doubt for much longer.