A Tale of Two Double Albums: Migos Does Wrong what Big K.R.I.T did Right

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Migos were everywhere in 2017 – the slew of dizzyingly successful singles off Culture, the album itself, and the innumerable guest features and collab albums ensured the trio were never out of sight (and earshot). The three Migos were music, a cultural moment in themselves.

In the midst of the Atlantans’ reign, a fellow Southern MC quietly dropped one of the best albums of the year – a double album, no less. Big KRIT (née Justin Scott) had been staying lowkey for too long, but when he resurfaced with 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time, it was evident that the wait was worth it.

Each of the two sides on 4eva… serves a definite purpose. The Big KRIT side showing off his lyrical acrobatics over deep-fried trunk-rattling production. The songs here are tight and incisive, delivering braggadocio and barbs with a technical finesse that shows off KRIT’s hunger for greatness.  The Justin Scott side is where the MC gets personal. The beats are more soulful and expansive, which allows Scott to ruminate over his struggles and insecurities and quietly celebrate his personal joys.

The entirety of 4eva… runs to 18 tracks, and nearly an hour and a half. Even the greatest of artists can – and have – put out lackluster albums when they try to indulge their maximal tendencies (looking at you, Lulu). Fortunately, KRIT doesn’t fall into this trap, instead revitalizing himself and delivering a body of music that does not stutter, or stumble over itself. There are few indulgences, keeping the sonics stylistically diverse and the songs themselves lean. KRIT has also inculcated a great ear for melody, which he uses to great effect in his singing as well as in the arrangements on the longer tracks. Round this off with a carefully curated set of guests, many of them frequent collaborators with whom he works exceptionally well, and you have an album that rarely – if ever – overstays its welcome.

Big KRIT poured his heart and soul into 4eva is a Mighty Long Time, understanding his strengths and weaknesses exceptionally well, and it shows. Despite its length, the LP doesn’t feel like it goes on – forgive the pun – for a mighty long time.

While KRIT was shining in his lane, Migos were working on the follow-up to their acclaimed album. Clearly intending to ride the wave of their previous success for some more time, Culture II arrived almost exactly a year on from its predecessor.

Or perhaps more accurately, it landed with an awkward thump.

As a whole, I don’t dislike this album. I loved multiple tracks and liked a few others.  There are several moments of Migos at their most Migos, and there are a few interesting sonic moments, specifically in the production. The singles are some of the best songs on the album. But at a whopping 24 songs long, Culture II overestimates the patience of well, everyone who’s listening to a Migos album. And that proves this LP’s downfall.

Migos have never been compelling lyricists – their appeal comes as vocalists, with unique flows, buckets of charisma and catchy choruses and vocal intonations. Stretching these talents across far more tracks than they need to diminish them significantly. It doesn’t help that the MCs themselves sound a little disinterested in experimenting, or even amplifying their strengths. In fact, in Quavo’s case in particular, his weaknesses as a lyricist are amplified as he struggles to keep coming up with interesting punchlines about wealth and sex. The Autotune-drenched vocals simply aren’t enough. Only Offset manages to hold his own on a significant part of the album.

It comes down to a significant, singular difference in how Migos and KRIT approach their respective albums – how much the MCs have to say. Having not put out a new album in a long time, KRIT had a number of themes to speak on, and a lot to prove. That translated into each song, each verse, each hook having its definite place. There was enough variety for the size of the album to not feel excessive, and being a gifted MC, KRIT ensured that we were listening intently to his every word. But given the deluge of music Migos have been associated with over the past year, Culture II is overkill. In a bid to keep their names in the industry’s conversations, they’ve put out too many songs that recycle their (already generic) tropes in decreasingly clever ways, accentuated by their limited technical skills. The result is an album that says a lot without actually saying much of note. The singles will keep the Migos brand afloat, but at what cost? Twitter is flooded with self-attested fans trashing the album. “The whole album sounds like one long song” is the most common refrain.

It’s unfortunate, really, that the Migos have been so blinded by their fame that they got complacent, to the point of repetitiveness. Because the first Culture made it evident that they could be wildly creative and entertaining. Their revival after the middling post-Versace run is further proof that they know what they’re doing, and can do it right if they want to. It’s a hope, too. Maybe they’ll put out an album that cements their legacy the way 4eva is a Mighty Long Time did for Big KRIT sometime in the next few years.

One can only hope it won’t be another gargantuan double album.

 

 

 

 

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A Tale of Two Double Albums: Migos Does Wrong what Big K.R.I.T did Right

Favourite Albums of 2017 – #10 to #6

#10. Nü Religion: Hyena, THEY.

The wave of alternative, trap-influenced R&B/melodic rap swept over music in the form of a few stars who molded the subgenre and brought it into the mainstream – The Weeknd and Bryson Tiller are a few names that come to mind. But they quickly shed their provocateur images for mainstream-friendly, sleek pop. This is where vocalist-producer duo THEY comes in – adding a layer of grit to the established tropes of the music by incorporating punk influences, gnarly instrumentation and sexy/snarling vocals.  The production, courtesy Dante Jones, strikes an exciting balance between delicate R&B, bass-heavy trap and guitar-driven rock, while vocalist Drew Jones floats over the beats flawlessly, confident and earnest in turns, with a gravelly tint to his voice complementing the soundscape, all brought together with flawless mixes. It makes sense, then, that THEY call their music Grunge&B. Nu Religion is an exciting, creatively inspired album that is extremely catchy and memorable – whether you’re riding down city streets or have your headphones blasting the music in your ears, this is an essentially 2017 record.

Listen to: Motley Crew, Say When, Dante’s Creek

#9. Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples

Vince Staples occupies a strange space that is quintessentially his – an ubertalented MC with scathing commentary on race, politics and society whose view of pop culture is decidedly millennial. Speaking on everything from love to celebrity culture to racial issues, Vince barrels through his incisive commentary with succinct, sharp lyricism. It makes sense that the beats he chooses share the chaos of the world he describes – glitchy electronica with a hip-hop bent that draws from 80s dance music just as much as it looks to Afrofuturism (as Vince has half-jokingly alluded to it). After the operatic Summertime ’06, Big Fish Theory is a disarmingly sleek 36 minutes of incredible music that hits you with the force of a tsunami and leaves you gasping underwater, but the whirlpool that Vince creates here makes you want to go under again as soon as you resurface.

Listen to: Love Can Be…, Party People, Rain Come Down

#8. Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker

This album broke my heart. And I am thankful for it. Trying to explain exactly why the meditations on depression, loneliness and crises of faith (in god, oneself and others) that comprise this album is so powerful, so achingly beautiful despite how bleak it might sound is pointless. All you should do is press play, and allow Julien Baker’s breathtaking voice reach into your ribcage and deliver her heartrending music straight to your waiting soul.

Listen to: Appointments (also one of the best music videos of the year), Sour Breath 

#7. Run The Jewels 3, Run the Jewels

I know, RTJ 3 technically came out in 2016. But it came out late enough in the year, and was fucking brilliant, so it deserves inclusion in this list. RTJ keep up their unmatched chemistry throughout the length of probably their most ‘polished’ album yet – Killer Mike and El-P trade bars with remarkable ease, all while providing the music for the revolution. Anthems that call for the destruction of ‘the masters,’ ruminative tracks that take stock of personal and social losses, and braggadocio that uses the disarray of the world as punchlines; they all ring in our ears with some of El-Producto’s best production and solid lyrical concepts. It’s tempting to give in to the misery of the world we live in (even the fierce MCs acknowledge the weight of what they see and experience on the brilliant 2100), but music like RTJ’s provide the much-needed kicks to our collective asses to actually go do something about this shit.

Listen to: 2100 feat. BOOTS, Hey Kids(Bumaye) feat. Danny Brown, A Report to Shareholders/Kill Your Masters

#6. 4Eva is a Mighty Long Time, Big K.R.I.T

Finally, finally. This is the studio album KRIT fans had been waiting for since 2010. 4eva is a Mighty Long Time is a double album that actually works, and KRIT brings his A-game to every aspect of this record. The first half shows off his Big KRIT persona, with the trunk-rattling Southern aggro-rap. He sounds his most confident here, claiming his place among the greats, brandishing lyrical weaponry using effortlessly paced flows. The beats bang, and you can feel his resentment at not being taken seriously all these years turned into seething purpose. This aggression is balanced on the second half, the Justin Scott side that deals with industry struggles and personal demons over soulful production. KRIT trades braggadocio for introspection, employing his underrated lyrical talents to paint a picture of a conflicted man dealing with the consequences of his artistry. The instrumentation reflects the jazzy rap stylings that have found their place in hip-hop. The balance is something few musicians can achieve – the album’s entire length has serious replay value, and for one its size, it never lets up or gets repetitive. 4eva is a Mighty Long Time indeed, but with this record, Big KRIT proves that he deserves to be remembered as such, as one of the finest MCs ever.

Listen to: Big KRIT, Big Bank, Mixed Messages, Drinking Sessions 

Favourite Albums of 2017 – #10 to #6