Mixtape Of The Week

Mixtape Of The Week: Migos Rich Nigga Timeline

There’s been this meme floating around Twitter the past few weeks. Maybe you’ve seen it, and maybe you haven’t. The idea is this: Migos, the excitable and inventive Atlanta rap trio, are better than the Beatles. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. There are thinkpieces about it and everything, but you’ve probably already decided how you feel on the subject. The point is obviously to annoy and/or enrage orthodox rock nerds, and this is always a worthwhile thing to do. But if you try to make it anything other than a quick punchline, the whole thing falls apart. It’s not that the statement is even wrong; it’s just that it doesn’t make sense. The Migos and the Beatles are groups of young (or once-young, anyway) men who make popular music and who often wear terrible clothes. That’s where the comparison ends. It’s like saying that putting lemon juice and powdered sugar on your pancakes is better than the career of Burt Lancaster. It’s like: Sure? I guess? If you’re in the mood? But also: Why? The annoying thing about all this: It’s going to stop people from taking the Migos seriously. And you should take the Migos seriously. The Migos are awesome, and their new Rich Nigga Timeline mixtape might be the best thing they’ve ever done.

There’s a moment on the chorus of “Move,” from Rich Nigga Timeline, in which one Migo is telling someone, “Treat you like a cow, trick, you better move!” And another Migo immediately chimes in: “Mmmmoooooo.” You know these guys are reaching the peak of their powers if they can moo like a cow on a mixtape-rap banger and somehow sound cool doing it. The Migos have always sounded like they were having fun rapping. If their hooks are repetitive (which they absolutely are), it’s because they’re rolling words around in their mouths, appreciating the taste: “Versace. Versaceversace. Versaceversace.” They’re stylists, not soul-baring artist types, and they’ve refined their clumped, stuttering cadence — the so-called “Migos flow” — to the point where they’re constantly finding new ways to cram in more syllables and still get every last one of them to land exactly on beat.

There’s a process here, an almost scientific one, and they’re clearly enjoying the hell out of applying it: Stressing weird syllables, delivering their dumbest lines with more excitable verve than their most finely crafted ones, careening from one flow variation to the next without coming up for air. The lyrics are, for the most part, giddy money talk. They don’t mean much, and it doesn’t much matter, except to the point that they bring a joyous absurdity: “Rich nigga with a pot of gold like a leprechaun / And I’m thinking of moving to Babylon.” But that sproingy, exuberant flow has now become so second-nature for these guys that they can deliver serious, heavy lyrics — “19, I was on my own / My grandma died, cancer on her bones” — in that same stuttery cadence without sounding like they’re getting maudlin or trivializing the things they’ve been through.

There’s nothing on Rich Nigga Timeline as catchy and immediate as “Fight Night,” the standout from their early-2014 No Label II tape, which has since eclipsed “Versace” as the Migos’ biggest hit ever. But No Label II, despite some great moments, was a soggy, overlong tape with too much pissed-off industry talk on it. The Migos have continued to tinker with their sound, and they pretty much nail it completely on Rich Nigga Timeline. The beats are spare, twinkly things with tiny little melodies embedded, and the mostly come from unknown producers. But the tracks all pop with energy, one smashing headlong into the next. Even at 18 full-length songs (some of which are long), it feels crisp and efficient. A year and a half after getting famous, these guys should not be able to make goofy, giddy, fun money-spending anthems this consistently or effectively, but it feels like they’re only now hitting their stride.

We should appreciate this incarnation of the Migos while we can. Sooner or later, they’ll be too famous to make music this effortless. In the new FADER cover story on the group, Lyor Cohen, their new corporate overlord, outlines a confused plan to push them to the next commercial level. He wants to send them to Sweden, throw them into a room with some superproducers, and give them instructions to “create something really global.” He wants them to work with Imagine Dragons, and it hurts my brain to even imagine that. If you know them, know this ain’t their feng shui. Cohen has proven business instincts, and, I mean, I’m not the guy who signed DMX to Def Jam, so what the fuck do I know. But this idea strikes me as all wrong. Migos make classic Atlanta strip-club rap music so joyously and effortlessly that it feels new. They are too good to be a three-headed Pitbull monster. They are Migos. Let them be great.

Download Rich Nigga Timeline at Livemixtapes.

Tags: Migos