On “Highway 85”, Migos position themselves as the millennial N.W.A. Quavo kicks off the track in the cadence Eazy-E uses on “Boyz-n-the-Hood” before launching into a similarly narrative-driven song. It’s a big deal to compare yourself to the most influential hip-hop group of all time, and an even bigger deal if you can back it up. With their debut album, Yung Rich Nation, Migos come close to doing just that.
As a young rapper with a fresh record deal, there are a few ways to navigate your first formal release. You can sidestep hype and release a juiced-up approximation of your pre-album mixtapes, as Young Thug did this year on Barter 6, a stunning but low-stakes offer that didn't seek new listeners so much as drag them in with sheer oddball magnetism. You can play ball with terrestrial radio, genuflecting to popular regional sounds and shopping for chart-topping guests with label money but also running the risk of losing sight of what made you intriguing in the first place.
Since the Atlanta trio repopularized the use of triplets in rap music on their 2013 mixtape Young Rich N****s, it's been hard lately to find a rapper that hasn't tried their hand at emulating what has become colloquially known as "the Migos flow. " But though the style has been imitated far too many times to count, no one has been able to successfully match the level of precision at which the Atlanta trio of Quavo, Offset and Takeoff execute it. Working through a few obstacles and delays this year, they look to maintain their status as kings of one of rap's most ubiquitous flows with Yung Rich Nation.
The first proper studio album from high-octane Atlanta trio Migos isn't all that different from the piles of acclaimed free mixtapes they've released since 2013. On all but a few tracks, Yung Rich Nation sticks to their addictive formula of raps that tumble out in polyrhythmic triplets and ad libs that punctuate like paintballs, all soaked in a giddy joie de vivre. The biggest distinction is lyrical, as tales of slinging drugs out of abandoned houses start to fade in favor of boasts that remind you of their rising profile: magazine covers, getting the word "bando" on Wikipedia, the Twitter meme that says Migos are better than the Beatles.
“They sayin’ Migos better than the Beatles,” offer the Atlanta hip-hop trio midway through their first proper album. On one level, this is just another boast on an album packed with them: over the course of Yung Rich Nation’s 50 minutes, Migos variously claim to be heirs to NWA’s gangsta rap crown, compare themselves to Elvis Presley and suggest they’re so rich they’re now above the law. But while the latter claim is slightly undermined by the fact that one member of Migos, Kiari “Offset” Cephus, is currently in prison – on charges of drug possession, carrying a loaded weapon in a school zone, battery and causing a riot in a penal institution – people really have been saying that Migos are better than the Beatles, and they’ve been saying it for the best part of two years.
Whatever you think of their lyrical content, there’s an infectious urgency in the way the members of Migos rap that can’t be denied. The Atlanta trap trio busts through its major-label debut with the throttle wide open. Sure, they may be running on the fumes of paper-thin song concepts and choruses, often just repeating a single word or phrase that burrows into your brain until you are ready to break down and confess everything.
It's 2015, which means it’s been exactly ten years since 2005, which also means writers are currently flooding the internet with their retrospectives on anything and everything from a decade ago. It’s apt that we take this moment to reflect back on what rap was like in ’05—specifically rap below the Mason-Dixon line. For many young rap fans it’s difficult to imagine what Southern hip hop looked and felt like a decade ago.