The trilogy is complete.
Four and a half years after the release of Culture, Migos are back with another blockbuster entry in the illustrious series. And right as the world is opening back up after a year and a half of COVID-19 restrictions, it really couldn’t have come at a better time.
The 19-song tracklist of Culture III features an impressive collection of A-list stars, ranging from Drake to Cardi B to Pop Smoke. But of course, the main appeal comes from the chemistry between Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. Between the releases of Culture II and Culture III, each member took time to release solo albums of their own, but we’re all excited to hear them trade verses (and ad-libs) with each other again.
After giving this thing a few initial listens, three members of the Complex Music team (Eric Skelton, Andre Gee, and Jessica McKinney) answered a series of questions, including: What’s the best song? Who had the best guest feature? Who won the album? Here are our first impressions of Migos’ new album, Culture III.
Eric: “Modern Day” hits the hardest on first listen. The Murda Beatz beat is crazy and all three of their verses are great. As far as the catchiest, most summer-ready song? I’ll go with “Vaccine.” I need to hear that in a room full of people immediately.
Andre: “Malibu” gives me exactly what I love from singles vying to climb the Billboard charts. It has a catchy hook, a fun and quirky beat, and everybody on the track is really flowin’ their ass off. Polo took a cool approach with his appearance, switching up his flow a couple times. His presence does break up the “Migos flow” of it all, which could be hit or miss for some. I thought it was a cool change of pace. More than any song, I can see myself coming back to this.
Jessica: “Roadrunner” is a classic Migos party record that reminds me of their early days. It’s a bar-heavy trap song where the trio spit some of their best bars about the usual topics, including women and wealth. On some of the other tracks, one member of the Migos clearly outshined the others, but on “Roadrunner,” all three of them are rapping at the same level. And of course, the triplet flow on the hook is bouncy and easy to follow, making it an obvious standout.
Eric: “Why Not.” I got bored less than halfway through my first listen and I don’t imagine I’ll be back. It’s almost like it accidentally slipped into the final album folder on someone’s hard drive, and they shrugged and decided to keep it. “Why not!” Nothing about this song is memorable.
Andre: I’ll say “Handle My Business,” which is more about sequencing than the song being low quality. There’s a point in the teens on the tracklist where listening got a bit tedious, and “Handle My Business” starts off so slow that I could see myself skipping in the future (especially when I know it’s close to the Pop Smoke song).
Jessica: “What You See.” It’s the biggest skip and it has my least favorite feature. There is nothing wrong with Justin Bieber’s vocals, necessarily, but it feels really out of place on the album. Up until this point in the tracklist, we get hard-hitting trap records, then they decide to slow it down with a romantic record that expresses their love for their significant others. “Imma plant this seed/ Cause I want you to grow with me/ If I don’t see you in my dreams/ I won’t ever go to sleep in my right mind,” Quavo sings. Nothing on this track is believable to me, and no one goes to the Migos for love songs. What was the point of including this?
Best thing about the album?
Eric: The singles. Culture III is a top-heavy album, but the highs are very high. “Straightenin” is an early Song of the Summer candidate, “Avalanche” introduces a cool new vibe for the Migos, and “Need It” was already a hit months ago. Based on the music video they just dropped this morning, it looks like the other standout (“Modern Day”) will be getting the single treatment, too. Complain all you want about the lows on this album, but it feels really good to finally have great new party music again (especially right now). The singles make the whole thing worth it.
Andre: For one, that it’s finally here—fans have been waiting a long time. But I’ll say the production variance is the best part. I’m glad they didn’t fall too deep into the trap of using the same kind of keys over 808s over and over. They offered different moods and they differentiated between samples and melodies. It was a varied experience for the most part.
Jessica: The best thing about Culture III is that it’s reminiscent of the Migos’ mixtape era, from the flows to production. There’s a certain hunger that comes across on the project that was missing at times after their mainstream rise.
Worst thing about the album?
Eric: The second half. The album is too long, and it falls off in the second half. Just like Culture II, it would have been a lot better if they cut five or six songs (especially since so many of these tracks are over four minutes long). Outside of “Antisocial” and “Light It Up,” I don’t see myself revisiting the second half of the album.
Andre: I hope I don’t end up just copy and pasting this critique throughout the year, but length! There’s a propensity with albums in the 15+ song range to start out giving the fans what they want and conclude that way, but at some point in the teens, fatigue sets in and it just won’t hit the same in one sitting. That dynamic gets worse when the production is monotonous and blends the songs together. Especially when their rapping style is so entrenched, it can border on repetitive. A lot of times with these long albums, I feel like if you cut out a lot of the songs in the teens, you’ll have a banger.
Jessica: I hate to complain about the length of a project again, but they could have made this project more concise. Even with Culture III being their first full-length release in years, we didn’t need 19 tracks. Had they narrowed this down to 12 or 14 tracks (losing songs like “What You See,” “Time For Me,” and “Antisocial”) it would have been much better.
Best guest feature?
Eric: Pop Smoke. Last year, Quavo told me he had “five or six” unreleased songs with his close friend and collaborator, and it’s great to hear one of those surface on this album. On “Light It Up,” you can hear Pop experimenting with his famously gravelly vocals, pushing himself out of his natural register midway through the verse—yet another sign that he had a lot of surprises in store for us before his life was tragically cut short. What a special talent.
Andre: I feel like I’m supposed to say Drake by default, because the first half of “Having Our Way” felt like a Drake song. And Cardi B was like a running back who hit the gap hard and took it 60 yards full-speed on “Type Shit,” but I think what YoungBoy Never Broke Again did on “Need It” was the most impressive. He and Offset really did their thing with the back-and-forth (as did Takeoff and Quavo). They sounded like a duo who had been doing that for years. “Need It” borrowed the melody from 50’s “Get In My Car,” but they approached it in such a unique way, that they more than did it justice. That’s how you flip a classic moment.
Jessica: YoungBoy Never Broke Again. Initially, I thought the best feature might go to Future, but after listening to “Need It” again, I remembered how much YoungBoy skated on that record. Some of the other features sounded out of place or forced, whereas, YoungBoy fits right in on “Need It,” almost sounding like an honorary member of the Migos.
Who won the album?
Eric: Offset. He had the most standout moments on first listen, and he seemed to be rapping with a chip on his shoulder throughout. Takeoff surprised me, too, and he had some of the best verses on the whole album. No shots at Quavo, of course. We all know he’s the glue.
Andre: With them being a team, the best answer is “all of them.” Their fans were longing for this for years, and they delivered. But I guess it’s time for everyone to acknowledge that Takeoff is probably the best lyricist in the group, and he’s the master of their flow.
Jessica: Takeoff. His performances on songs like “Avalanche,” “Roadrunner,” “Having Our Way,” and “Light It Up” were unmatched. Throughout the album, he was sharp, and he set the standard for what we know as the Migos flow. It’s worth mentioning that Offset was close behind, though, especially on songs like “Roadrunner” and “Jane.”
Overall first impression?
Eric: Is it too long? Yes. Is the second half a little boring? Sure. Is it better than the first Culture? Definitely not. But are there four or five songs on here that will stay in rotation all summer? Absolutely. Just as the world is opening back up, Migos gave us a handful of really great party records, which is all I was looking for. I’m happy with this.
Andre: 19 songs is a lot. I get that they’ve been away for a while, they want to satiate fans, and that more songs equals more units (and a quicker certification), but I would’ve kept it at like 13 or 14. I’ll have to revisit the later songs again to see how I feel about them without the sequencing aspect, though. Overall, this was a good effort, though. I don’t think I quite heard a single that will be a smash, but it was solid fan service. I don’t think their fans will be disappointed.
Jessica: Culture III isn’t the best of the Culture series (Culture still stands at No. 1), but it is a good Migos album. The long delay, along with not-so-great solo projects, left me skeptical about the Migos’ ability to get back on top. But in the end, Culture III was worth the wait more than I thought it would be. There are a handful of records that should have replay value, the production is solid, and they still sound good together. At this point, I could see Culture III potentially making a run for one of the top rap albums of 2021.