hip-hop trio migos on golden collaborations
photography eric chakeen
Before the sun set on Saturday night in Astoria, the crowd at Fool's Gold Records' annual Day Off music festival was going nuts. The South's most nautical rising rhymer Lil Yachty and his eclectic Sailing Team set the fest fully off with a spirited rendition of his viral "One Night." The new school crew was followed up by Harlem heavyweight Juelz Santana, whose hit-packed set threw back to Dipset's golden age. The stage was primed for Migos, the Atlanta trio that broke big with singles "Versace" and "Hannah Montana," popularized the dab dance craze, and is more influential in contemporary hip-hop than given credit for. Yet the group was cut off by police at 9 pm sharp, about 15 minutes into its headlining set.
Fans voiced frustration on social media, but none were more upset than Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff themselves. Backstage, the trio was cool and collected, but didn't hold back disappointment. Despite the group's abridged performance, Migos fans needn't worry about a shortage of fresh, fully turnt tunes: the trio remained positive, promising that its packed slate of upcoming projects is all about "coming from every angle and doing what we do best," said Takeoff.
A major aspect of what Migos does best is orchestrate elastic song structures in which the three lyricists bounce off each other's energy — it's elsewhere been described as a "quirky triplet flow," and one that's become widely replicated by other artists. Last month's 3Way EP was a short but impactful taste of the trio's sinister side. Yet while Migos has proven itself a strong unit, what makes the group such a dynamic force is its members' ears for collaborative opportunities.
Atlanta has long been a hotbed for game-changing hip-hop sounds, but these days, the Southern mecca is the undisputed incubator for the genre's most forward-thinking mad scientists. Many of Migos' partnerships have been with the city's established and emerging players, and the group's collaborative relationships with its neighbors have been both lasting and fruitful. "We like to lock in with other artists that just have the same type of vibe in the studio as us: just go right in the booth and right off the top — that's how we do the thing," Offset explained. "We still work in our crib, in our house; we create the same way that we've been working originally," Takeoff added.
Next month, Migos plans to release the fifth iteration of Streets on Lock, a collaborative series of mixtapes with Rich the Kid, the 24-year-old Atlanta rapper who has recently linked up with Jaden Smith. Earlier this morning, the collaborators broke off a new taste of the project: "I Got a Check," a heady trap cut complete with a glitchy, auto-tune hook. "The streets been on lock since the first time, second time, third time," said Quavo of the ongoing partnership with Rich, which hasn't slowed the prolific rappers in joining both Gucci Mane and A$AP Ferg on recent singles, too. Quavo in particular has demonstrated a sharply-tuned instinct for step-ahead sounds. He recently joined forces with OVO golden boy PARTYNEXTDOOR, and has long linked up with alien virtuoso Young Thug. "Pick Up the Phone" — Thug's new joint single with Travis Scott upon which Quavo features — is undoubtedly my song of the summer. "We the wave, you know what I'm saying?" Takeoff argued. "They depend on us for the new sound. We gotta keep up the flavor, keep things fresh." "We've got an ear for music. We geniuses." Offset added. He's not exactly wrong.
In addition to Streets on Lock 5, Migos is also readying No Label 3, the highly anticipated follow up to its 2014 tape featuring standout production from Metro Boomin. Though the members assure it's finished already and will be landing soon, they're tight-lipped about what to expect from the record — especially the multiple songs the group recently said it has in the vault with Kanye West. "We don't want to spoil anything!" Takeoff said backstage.
The trio was equally secretive about its upcoming New York Fashion Week plans, though assured they'd be stopping in on shows — "We love New York. Y'all got swag, pretty ladies, dope food. There's great fashion out here," said Takeoff — and checking for designers other than Donatella. "We're gonna hit all the places we need to be. We're gonna give everybody a chance," Quavo said of the gang's Fashion Week schedule. Having already made a surprise appearance on the VFILES runway, it'll be exciting to see which other labels Migos finds fascinating. Given the promise of new material with West, Yeezy Season 4 doesn't seem so unlikely.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Eric Chakeen