‘Culture III’ Is A Pivotal Moment For Migos’ Musical Legacy And A Major Storyline Of 2019

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Last week, DJ Mustard announced a single called “Pure Water” featuring Migos would be dropping today. There’s been no indication that the track will be on Migos’ upcoming Culture III, but it will be still intriguing to hear how the Atlanta group sounds over the hypnotic beat that’s been heard in previews. There was a lot of solo work from all three members of the group in 2018, but not many full group tracks after Culture II dropped last January. The 24-track album should have been more than enough to hold us over, but the repetition made for an unfulfilling project.

Culture II was a grand galivant into hip-hop superstardom for the hood Liberaces, but the ceremony didn’t go quite as planned. The project went platinum, but it also ushered in fatigue for the prolific group. Where they go from here will be one of 2019’s most compelling stories. They’re undoubtedly on top of the rap game, but to quote De La Soul, another three-man group, “Stakes Is High” for Culture III. Will they follow Culture II with a veritable comeback album to bolster the discography that has their fans calling them a top 5 group of all time, or will they regress toward the trap mean with another hodgepodge project driven by bangers like “Stir Fry” and “Narcos” but bogged down by average tracks?

The group’s solo album schedule has left us with more questions than answers. In October Quavo, at one time considered the group’s breakout star, dropped his long-awaited Quavo Huncho solo debut. The project had its moments such as “F*ck 12” and “Pass Out,” but ultimately showed just how much he needs his cousins (or some other feature) to spell him over the course of a project. Takeoff followed up with The Last Rocket, which was an impressive collection of bangers that showed the group’s pivotal figure self-aware of his appeal and intent on delivering it.

The mystery starts with Offset’s album. We still don’t even know what it’s called or when it’s actually coming out. After his breakup and impending divorce with Cardi B, Offset missed the December 14th release date and has been relatively MIA — besides his manipulative spectacle of trying to win back her affection in front of the world at her Rolling Loud festival performance. After posting a seemingly contrite recognition that he messed up by cheating, it’s unclear if Offset is too distraught to partake in the demands that come with releasing a high-profile album, is re-working the album to be more reflective of his emotional state, or has shelved it all together. Perhaps he and Cardi are somewhere working it all out — emotionally.

Whatever the case, their breakup threw a wrench in Migos’ solo album plans. The original plan seemed to be for the group to release their three solo albums then ride the wave of creative energy into Culture III. Based on both previous Culture albums’ January release dates and Quavo saying last October Culture III was coming at the “top of 2019,” we’ll assume that Culture III is being worked on, and the Offset solo will be worked around.

But even more important than the album’s logistics is its creative process, which will be the determining factor in how well the album is received. As previously mentioned, the conception of Culture II consisted of the trio coming up with concepts and finishing songs in as little as “20-to-45 minutes.” Jay-Z completing his Blueprint classic in two weeks is a thrilling fact; that Migos completed their middling Culture II with a similarly expedient process is a damning fact. Artists only get credit for quick execution when the album is incredible.

Migos owe it to themselves to make Culture III a labor of love and focus more on getting the most out of every song than repetitious execution. Travis Scott released the best trap album of the year last year in Astroworld, which created painstakingly with some songs taking around 50 sessions to refine. While Migos don’t have to be quite that ambitious, there’s a happy medium that the group can explore. In fact, it would make sense for them to reach out to Travis Scott to executive produce the project. Even before Culture III, he was known as an exceptional vibes curator. That’s the kind of person Migos need to helm Culture III, otherwise, they run the risk of once again belying the name of their Quality Control crew.

They undoubtedly built the QC ship, helping the crew become a brand name that brought in hip-hop megastar Cardi B as well as cult favorites Lil Yachty, Lil Baby, and the controversial Miami duo City Girls into the fold. It’s important for them to set a precedent for the entire movement with a strong album that helps further entrench Quality Control as a legendary label of this era.

But it’s bigger than just QC. Despite strong albums like Astroworld and Die Lit, there’s still a perception among rap purists that trap music is an ephemeral sound that’s approaching bubble status. It’s likely that many of those traditionalists can never be swayed, but Migos, top purveyors of the modern trap sound, can make them look foolish with a dope album that reinforces their staying power.

Migos are undoubtedly at the peak of the figurative mountain of music stardom. What happens with Culture III will determine whether they stay there, or begin a gradual descendance. They’re in full control of their destiny, and it will be exciting to see how the trio reacts during their make-or-break 2019.