Migos’ ‘Culture II’ and the problem with stream trolling


Michael Pasquella

The rap superstar trio, Migos, recently dropped their sophomore album Culture II, which follows their RIAA Certified Platinum Album “Culture”.  The first installment of Culture was filled with catchy hits, such as “Slippery” and “T-Shirt” and had one of the most memorable songs of the year in “Bad and Boujee,” which soared to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for a total of three weeks.  It received high praise and a Grammy nomination for best rap album.  Other 2017 highlights from Migos included a massive co-sign from Donald Glover at the Golden Globes.  2017 was undoubtedly the group’s biggest year yet and expectations for the sequel album were very high.  Singles for the album included “Motorsport” and “Stir Fry” which were exciting, but not extraordinary.  “Stir Fry,” moreover, was very odd and sounded like nothing the trio had ever done before.  The Pharrell Williams-produced beat was bouncy and poppy, which led me to think that Culture II could more diverse and interesting than anything we have ever heard from the Migos.

Unfortunately, that theory fell flat  when Culture II dropped on January 26.  In fact, this is one of the most boring albums I’ve had to endure in a long time, as the 1:45 runtime seems completely unnecessary and each song after the next sounded exactly like the prior one.  It is as if Migos just copy-pasted their formula twenty-four times and didn’t put in the time to reduce the tracklist to the best songs.  Unfortunately, this has been a more common trend in hip-hop, as many artists are releasing unnecessarily long albums/mixtapes in order to hit as many streams as possible, but ignoring the actual quality of the album as a whole.  Therefore, as I listened to Culture, I was left waiting for a banger hidden in the massive tracklist, but felt disappointed not to find anything special after finishing the listen.  

It almost seems as if Migos regressed to the mixtapes they had released prior to Culture.  What made Culture so great was that it was free of the filler songs that Migos had previously jammed into their mixtapes, and condensed their sound into 13 great, catchy, high-quality tracks.  Culture II, on the other hand, seems rushed (as it was released exactly one year after Culture) so we can easily assume that much time wasn’t put into the condensing the sound as Migos wanted to strike while their iron was burning hot.  So we received this massive tracklist with almost too much Migos to handle.  These massive tracklists are part of a new business model used by many hip-hop artists known as “Stream Trolling.” 

The more streams an artist gets per song, the more money they make.  Therefore, artists are putting out as much music as possible, naturally, to rack up as many streams as possible.  This means even if an album flops, they will still receive a lot of streams from people just listening through the album once.  For example, rap duo sensation Rae Sremmurd recently revealed that their third commercial project,  SremmLife 3 will be a three disc album.  The last thing I think anybody wants is around 40 Rae Sremmurd songs.  What made their last album successful was that they condensed their sound into 14 quality tracks.  This is just another example of when an artist builds up a household name for themselves, people will stream their album, regardless if it has garnered bad reviews.  However, five years ago a listener would most likely not spend ten dollars on an album after seeing it had poor reviews.  So kudos to Migos for the smart business move, but it is disappointing for listeners who wanted more than a couple of decent radio singles.

However, there were some saving graces in the album.  The feature chorus and verse from 21 Savage on “BBO”(co-produced by Kanye West) is a nice change of pace for the album, as a playful horn sample complements 21’s rough voice very well.  Drake also makes a much-appreciated feature verse on “Walk it Talk it” as he breaks up the same triplet flow from the Migos, and delivers a decent verse.  Travis Scott’s catchy chorus on “White Sand” has been stuck in my head for the past few days and definitely has that resonating quality I was searching for in the album as a whole.  The features on this album are extremely crucial to the listenability–because since every song sounds so similar–you can find yourself lost in the tracklist.  The features on the album help break up the sound to the relief of the listener.

The first half of the album seemed like a decent place where the album could have been cut off and I would have been slightly less irritated, because the second half on this tracklist is completely unlistenable.  Besides the single “Motorsport” sitting at #17, I was having serious difficulty distinguishing each song from the next.  It was almost completely just noise, and I hit the point where the last thing I wanted to hear was another Migos song.  It was that boring.  

Overall, I was very disappointed with Migos on their effort into this project.  Maybe one or two songs from the album will blow up and hopefully save the whole project for the group. But as of right now, it seems more people are going crazy over Drake’s two-song EP than the release of Culture II.