The Atlanta rapper is preparing to unleash a solo album that will hopefully peel back the layers of an untold story.
Less than 24 months after Donald Glover certified Migos’ No. 1 hit single “Bad and Boujee” in his Golden Globes acceptance speech, the trio of Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset have become a marquee Billboard chart fixture. Once insultingly deemed a viral gimmick, the biggest rap group in the world completely redefined the methodology behind the oversaturation model, flooding the playlist dystopia in a grand display of dominance. Billions of streams later, they’re now positioned at the forefront of pop culture, feeding into the excess with an endless slew of projects and guest features, and countless hours of videos in which they elevated generic rap concepts to the nth degree. There have been TV cameos (most notably on FX’s Atlanta), Grammy nominations, a blockbuster tour with Drake, and a “Carpool Karaoke” episode in which they sprinkled their “Nawf” Atlanta flair throughout Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
Although The Three Amigos are still very much in the process of fine-tuning each of their individual sounds, the heated debate over the group’s power rankings has shown no signs of fizzling out (the hilariously flawed and unnecessary comparisons to The Beatles seem to be a product of our culture’s incessant need to classify everything). The reliably entertaining powerhouse is a finely oiled machine that birthed a “whole new sound” with their patented triplet flow, but unfortunately, they’re often pitted against one another, something that Quavo took exception to in a recent tweet. The reality is that Migos are the textbook example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; when one is missing, the rest suffer. However, when unified, they perfectly complement one another through their familial camaraderie, inimitable sense of humor, and playful energy (see their reading of Llama Llama Red Pajama over the “Bad and Boujee” instrumental while at Power 106).
Each member has distinguishable strengths that enhance the group’s deceptively clever cohesion. “Uncle” Quavo, the de facto frontman, has exhibited immense crossover potential, outsourcing his talents on tracks like “Congratulations,” “I’m the One,” “Pick Up the Phone,” and “Portland.” As the group’s lead-off batter and conquering workhorse (at one point he had 10 tracks on the Billboard Hot 100), he provides much needed structure by appropriately channeling the energy and direction of each song with his infectious choruses. His nephew, Takeoff, is the youngest and least-known member of the group, but is no less integral to their success. “My boy Take been spittin’ bars,” Quavo told Ebro during an interview on Beats 1 prior to the release of Culture II. “My opinion he the best one outta all of us.” Laid-back and soft-spoken outside of the studio, Takeoff is the most methodical and technically skilled of the three. He embodies the group’s boastful swagger with his distinctive, throaty baritone, and rapid-fire cadences on standout cuts like “Call Casting,” “Dat Way,” and “T-Shirt.”
Both Quavo and Takeoff released solo projects this fall: the former’s Quavo Huncho arrived the second week of October, while the latter’s The Last Rocket came a month later. Both albums performed relatively well, but were quickly submerged beneath the modern music deluge. Now, the oft-maligned and misunderstood Offset stands alone as the last of his Migos kin to venture into the solo space.
Offset’s trajectory has been decidedly difficult to decipher. While there have been enticing flashes of brilliance, his progression has felt stunted at times due to the fact that he has had to reroute a turbulent career path marred by run-ins with the law. In 2013, he was incarcerated on a probation violation right as Migos struck gold with “Versace.” Two years later, as the group was preparing to release their debut album, he found himself behind bars once again after the group was arrested midway through a concert at Georgia Southern University for gun and drug charges; he was denied bail due to his criminal record. Although the charges were eventually dropped, Offset pled guilty to a riot in penal institution charge “over an incident in which he kicked a fellow inmate in the head” and received probation. Most recently in July, he was arrested in Georgia and slapped with felony charges after being pulled over for an improper lane change. “I didn’t say anything, I just rolled with the punches,” he told Joe Coscarelli of The New York Times.
His life has changed dramatically in the past year alone. Last September, he married platinum-selling rapper Cardi B to forge a commercial alliance of epic proportions, before the rocky relationship crumbled amidst rumors of adultery. Their child, his fourth by a fourth woman, was born in July. Just two months prior, a near-death car accident in which he totaled his lime-green Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat left him bloodied and scarred. To top it all off, he performed the entire Drake tour after posting $17,000 bail. In between the fits of highly publicized chaos, he even managed to earn three Top 15 hits without the assistance of his group mates: “Ric Flair Drip” off of his collaborative project with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin; Tyga’s “Taste”; and Kodak Black’s “Zeze.”
It is no accident that Offset’s album, which was scheduled to drop today, December 14th– his 27th birthday– will be the one to put a bow on the Migos solo trilogy. In the process of adjusting on the fast track to fame, Offset has quickly become the group’s most compelling, if peculiar, character. It is for this reason, perhaps, that his forthcoming solo work also feels like the most essential. If his artistic development over the years is representative of what Migos could become, which seems almost unfathomable given their achieved ubiquity, then he’s the most vital part of the group’s future. Perhaps Migos’ occasional stagnation while he was locked up was simply a product of their well-documented interdependence. But it also speaks to how he’s an irreplaceable component, the “glue” if you will, of their ongoing success.
Offset is now within arm’s reach of hip hop superstardom. He fuses the best aspects of his brethren: the sturdy adaptability of Quavo and the militant penmanship of Takeoff. He easily parlays the imbalance between the two, something that was especially pronounced during his absence. Yet where Quavo periodically suffocates listeners with an overdone approach, and Takeoff gives in to more straightforward rhyme patterns, Offset offers something a bit more mercurial and ingenious. In one breath, he can deliver enthralling acrobatics with seamlessly loose enunciation, and in the other, he can rattle off dextrous multisyllabic eviscerations. It’s a lethal combination that grants him a tremendously high ceiling. Potential that was once overlooked as a result of a qualitatively disorganized smattering of talent is now blossoming with more consistency. What’s most remarkable about Offset’s ascension is the way that he has shined without the formidable backing of his brethren. On tracks like Juicy J’s “Flood Watch,” Cousin Stizz’s “Headlock,” Gucci Mane’s “Met Gala,” and Metro Boomin’s “No Complaints,” Offset smugly steals the show, injecting his charisma with such gusto that one can’t help but wonder what a full-length project would yield.
He teased the tip of this iceberg in a recent interview with Billboard, insisting that he’s ready to give listeners more of himself and not just the “bubblegum rap” of Pateks and Lambos. “I’m talking about relevant situations that have occurred over the last 18 or 24 months, like me being in the crash, my kids, my family time and me being married,” he explained. “There’s different parts of my life. The ups and downs of being in music, the feeling of people doubting me and being the underdog to becoming the big dog.”
The manner in which the three members of Migos compliment one another has opened up criticism to the subsequent solo efforts from Quavo and Takeoff, and it seems likely that this media flak will persist long after Offset takes his crack at the system. It’s a complicated aspect of the rap group that was harped on by Takeoff in a now infamous red carpet interview. But Offset has an intense mystique that cannot be captured by his musical omnipresence or the headlines detailing his various legal and romantic troubles. “A lot of people don’t really know Offset,” the rapper admitted in his extensive NYT profile. Maybe his solo album will finally pierce the veil and provide substance beyond the tattered trap imagery. The self-described “young hothead” introduced himself to a global audience with a hallmark hook and verse on “Bad and Boujee.” Now, with his newfound perspective and growing bonafides, it’s time to turn the page and reveal the details between the margins.