offset wants to control his narrative
The rapper tells i-D about flow, focus, and why he won't tell anyone the name of his album.
Offset wears Louis Vuitton by Virgil Abloh. Chanel glasses. Photography Manuel Obadia.
Offset bursts into the restaurant of a chic Parisian hotel, sporting a full-white outfit, looking radiant. He’s the last of the three members of the Migos crew to release a solo album, the title of which he still won’t reveal. "I want people to have it all at once, material and title, because if you give away the title in advance, it already has an impact on the way the album will be received," he says. If Offset wants to control the narrative around his first album, it’s likely because he’s spent the past few months under the microscope, having been been quasi-sacrificed on the altar of public opinion in relation to his personal life. Offset is the last piece in the Migos puzzle, a band who no longer need much introduction. "Migos, the best trio since the Three Kings,” "Migos: better than the Beatles." The three Atlanta golden-boys are used to receiving all kinds of superlative praise.
With their controversial triplet flow and viral hits "Hannah Montana" and "Versace," many viewed Migos as a one-hit-wonder phenomenon, until the release of their track "Culture" in early 2017. If originally the three voices were indistinguishable to most, time allowed for Quavo, Takoff, and Offset to polish their respective styles. Offset corroborates this theory. "I think our styles are increasingly distinct, but the truth is that making this solo album isn’t just about practicing my flow and establishing myself but also about telling my story, because at the end of the day people don’t really know me at all."
Can we go back briefly on the genesis of Migos?
Quavo, Takeoff, and myself are from the same family. Actually, I wasn’t even rapping at first, and Quavo was the one who wrote my first rap. We didn’t take rapping seriously in the beginning, Quavo was into football, and so was I. And then a few years later, we met Sonny Digital [iconic producer of the 808 Mafia Collective] who took us to meet with some labels, since he was already a signed artist…It didn’t work out straight away, we got rejected by almost every big label out there. We were too forward-thinking for them…
It’s pretty insane to think that labels passed on the occasion to sign Migos. And you became a sensation just as Atlanta was turning into the new capital of rap.
Coach K [his manager, and head of Quality Control] always says that Atlanta is the Black Hollywood. It’s true that we arrived on the scene at a point where Gucci Mane, Future, K Camp, Peewee Longway and others were already there… those days were insane.
We actually recorded with Peewee Longway, since he had a studio there. Everyone would hang out there, even Lil Baby from the Lil Baby & Gunna duo would hang there before he became a rapper. Peewee has done a lot for Atlanta rap, he’s also the one who introduced us to P, the other head of the Quality Control label, and it’s with them that we signed a deal which allowed our career to take off.
Was it not the Migos flow that allowed for that to happen ?
I like to take on the part of leader. It’s a blessing for me to realize how much this flow has seduced people. There were a lot of haters around when rappers began to rap like us, but we mainly saw it as very flattering. Some rappers are very possessive of their styles, but I’m not. If you want to rap someday, you can use the flow too… what matters most is knowing where you’re borrowing it from.
You all have very different styles: Quavo’s is rather melodic and emotional, Takeoff has a mad sense of humor. How would you define your style?
My style is faster and more aggressive. I sing very little, but I focus on the rhymes and the flow, which are generally darker and more nervous. It feels as though the beat has become the center of attention, but I sincerely want to be the act of rapping at the forefront. In my album for example, there will not be a lot of autotune, which was never my strong point anyway.
You’re releasing an album for that we still can’t get a title for. Don’t you want to promote it?
Yes, I am releasing a solo record. And no, you can’t get a title. Nowadays, we’re drowned in a constant flow of information. You get tons of content without having to do a thing, it’s just getting to you non-stop. I want my album to come out when the time is right, and the way I see it a title is already one piece of information too many. I don’t want people to be projecting anything into it before the album’s even out, whether it’s their wishes or their opinions. I take my time because I want to be sure it all makes sense.
You once said that what mattered to you was numbers. Don’t you think it’s a shame that rap would focus more on sales than on the content of the records themselves?
No, absolutely not! Numbers don’t lie. And rapping is a sport. Basically, numbers allow you to situate yourself realistically. They prevent you from living in fantasies. People talk a lot about the sales from the release week, but I’m not interested in those. Look at Post Malone’s album, it didn’t sell out when it came out but it’s been top of the charts for 18 months. This means that his music is inscribed in people's’ memory now… I’m all about the longevity.
Many people thought that Migos wouldn’t get past “Versace” or “Hannah Montana.” And yet 4 years later, the Culture album took you straight to the top.
There was a moment - between 2014 and 2016 - when I had some issues with the law. That was rock bottom. Then “Bitch Dab” came out, in 2015, and everyone started to dab (something that we hadn’t invented ourselves), but there was almost no fallout on our side… it was a rough patch, but it’s because we took our time and kept going steady that we’re here today.
From drip to dab, you’ve launched quite a few gimmicks. What does drip mean to you ?
It’s a word that comes from Atlanta, and it means you’ve got a killer style. Many people wrongly think that drip means having tons of designer clothes, but you don’t need that to have drip. Sometimes it’s just about having the right pieces, the right attitude and bulletproof confidence. If I had to define my own style: classy and futurist. I love Chrome Hearts, Off-White, Louis Vuitton. Virgil Abloh has already made his mark on history by becoming the first Black creative director at Louis Vuitton. I salute him. [Offset would model in the A/W Off-White men’s show a few days later].
Didn’t you star in many music videos as a kid?
Yeah [Laughs]! I appear in the video for Whitney Houston’s “Whatchulookinat”, but also in a TLC vid. It was really a great experience. I don’t remember much, I must’ve been around 9 and I didn’t realize how big a deal Whitney Houston was. May she rest in peace. In the end I’ve always been in show business!
What tips would you give to a young person getting into rapping?
The most important thing is to work. Talent is cool, but work will always pay more than the rest. The second thing is that you need to stand out. Even if it feels like it’s not working out at first, as it did with Migos, you need to maintain that originality and never give in to the pressure from outside.
Photography Manuel Obadia-Wills
Styling: Will Johnson
Styling assistant Ouss Thiam
i-D thanks l'Hôtel National des Arts et Métiers.
This article was originally published on i-D FR.