Migos review – hot stuff from hip-hop’s dream meme team music the guardian fried chicken liver and gizzard recipes

It’s not often that one act comes along and substantively changes a genre in what seems like an indecently short space of time. Migos – the hip-hop trio of quavo, offset and takeoff, not actually amigos, but north atlanta blood relatives – arrive on stage in london as innovators basking in validation. They have a much-copied, idiosyncratic sound (the so-called “ triplet flow”, studded with ad-libs) and a distinctive visual presence.

To what looks like a heart attack in a versace factory, they add diamond-encrusted granny specs. Or at least they do in videos and photo shoots: tonight they are dressed down.

Migos are undeniably hot – triply so tonight, thanks to the jerk chicken barbecues that fill the air outside the venue, to the constant firing of onstage pyrotechnics, and to takeoff’s padded black jacket and offset’s fluorescent yellow one.


These stay on throughout this triumphal, but not quite scintillating, set.Hannah montana

Migos are far more than a passing fancy: their third album, culture II, released in january, hit a plethora of no 1 spots internationally and went platinum in six weeks in the US. Its predecessor, 2017’s culture, also went platinum. Specifically, though, there’s a very “now” sort of verve to them. Just one example: quavo mischievously tweeted last year that migos would be happy to play the three hyenas in the forthcoming live action remake of the lion king, due in 2019 (beyoncé is playing nala).

Migos have also been aspiring to ubiquity through a hyper-modern digital assault, in which memes, hooky phrases, references and interjections are as much the product as some notional unit of music. The dab craze of 2015? If they did not technically invent it (take a dab, skippa da flippa), migos staked a claim to the viral phenomenon by being early disseminators with a track called look at my dab.

Then there’s the car wheel screech of “skrrt skrrt” – again, not exclusively a migos tic, but the trio’s favourite embellishment. (can I get a “skrrt skrrt?” wonders quavo aloud; he can).Bass shouting it’s not just “skrrt” either: migos’ tracks feature high levels of in-song commentary, where a line is punctuated by a catchphrase or an interjection.

“momma told me (ugh) / not to sell work (momma!),” runs a typical opening of T -shirt, one of the best songs from culture. In a world where reaction is as much a part of a cultural product as the product itself, these vocal ad libs work very much like auditory emojis, or comments below an instagram post. The internet is constantly pumping out nugget-sized, fast-moving, attention-seeking sounds and visuals. How can music compete? By reshaping itself ever further into a meme-able state.

Elsewhere, such subtlety is not a priority. Most migos tracks hammer home velcro-like catchphrases with merciless repetition. Versace, the breakout track of 2013, repeated the fashion house’s name, a fascinating reductio ad absurdum that had many old-schoolers gnashing their teeth at the death of hip-hop’s core lyrical function.Bass shouting

Tonight, migos’ old track hannah montana – basically a chorus on steroids: “hannah montana! Hannah montana!” – is dispatched with businesslike vigour. More recently, the opening couplet of bad and boujee (ft lil uzi vert), the killer track that took migos to the next level, even spawned another mini-meme. Someone would text or tweet “rain drop” to someone else; the required response was “drop top”. Tonight, migos fire off the mighty bad and boujee midway through their set, an indication that they have moved on from it.

This, then, is a rap trio at the height of their pummelling power, shaking the room multiple times and mustering a sea of camera-phones for at least half a dozen tracks. There are, however, some caveats floating around the smoke-filled air. Live, the subtlety of migos’ work is all too often lost. The nuances of their respective deliveries (quavo, still dominant; offset, no slouch tonight; takeoff, rumbly low-end) are inaudible; the silvery ad libs barely land, and the stark elegance of many of their productions are subsumed into a barrage of hooks, bass and shouting.Bass shouting this loss of range is pretty standard for live hip-hop, and, indeed, much live music. But the undeniable excitement generated by bass and shouting is itself undercut by the run time of the newer songs.

One widespread criticism of culture II was its length, a sprawling double that did not justify the generosity of the tracklisting. (really, it was a shameless land-grab: streams are calculated into chart positions, so the more tracks on an album, the more streams overall, the higher the chart potential).

But the songs were longer too. One of migos’ strongest points has long been their tightness, but many of culture II’s songs test the crowd’s considerable energy. BBO is not that great a track to begin with (migos’ attitude to women is appalling, a downside that “bad bitches only” miserably reinforces) but it seems twice as long as you remember, even if takeoff does lower his hood for it.

The big singles off culture II fare better, consolidating migos in the consciousness.Bass shouting walk it talk it is an earworm that scores high on a number of migos metrics – clipped syllables, nagging ad libs. It could go on much longer than it does, with takeoff doing a little dance and all three rappers nailing a lengthy verse (yes, they do those too). Quavo’s boast that “I think my back got scoliosis ’cos I swerved a lane” is a standout line. (an excellent video, released earlier this week, finds migos and their guest drake parodying 70s music TV in outrageous wigs).

MotorSport, meanwhile, is relentless, and with the song’s guests (nicki minaj and offset’s fiancé cardi B) absent, it falls to the girls in the crowd to shout out cardi’s verse. A huge, bouncing, interactive version of stir fry closes the set. Again, migos’ signatures are all over it: the clipped, almost onomatopoeic chorus (“in the kitchen, wrist twisting like it’s stir fry”). Like most culinary metaphors in hip-hop, stir fry is actually about drugs, but beyond that, it’s the moment where migos abandon their “ trap sound” (a subgenre of hip-hop, by and for the drug demimonde) while singing about it.Went platinum stir fry actually matches migos’s rhythmic raps to a bouncing pharrell williams dance beat – a crossover without compromise.