How Takeoff's 'The Last Rocket' can stabilize Migos' shaky foundation

Trey Alston

 // Oct 26, 2018

Artist // Instagram

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Either Takeoff is pictured next to his comrades, or he's decorating the back of a photo op with soulless eyes and loose hands perched without meaning—there's no in between. On wax, his verses are perfunctory conclusions to more adventurous beginnings. Of Migos, he's the youngest, yet oldest in the way that he carries himself. And he's the group's most suprising draw, at least according to social media. He serves as the second face and emergency scapegoat if things turn sour. For this reason, his forthcoming album, The Last Rocket, will work wonders in erasing the damage done by Quavo Huncho—if Takeoff plays his cards right.

The world's fascination with Takeoff probably stems from the fact that he's the quietest. Migos, as a collective, exist around a lucrative industry of larger-than-life personalities that become bigger than the music that they create. For the length of their careers, Migos have been the antithesis of the idea of the modern rap star. They let their music speak for them first, followed by their penchant for bedazzling jewelry and luxe living. These are things the modern rapper does, as well; where the two paths diverge is in celebrity intent. Migos' members avoided the charades that come with the lifestyle, shying away from controversy that others embraced. But that changed over the last year with the arrival of women into the group's dynamic: Offset became intertwined with Cardi B, perhaps the most important woman rapper this decade, and Quavo's gone chasing Nicki Minaj's tailfeather to break a story. This leaves Takeoff as the group's recluse.

This kind of difference intrigues people. No one likes to feel like a sheep; they want to be the shepherd herding them to a fresh pasture. Takeoff is this idealistic pasture, seemingly different than the two that existed before it—even if his pasture has been visited before. As a unit, Migos release a tremendous amount of music through long albums, mixtapes, and features, showing their camaraderie and interplay that has made them one of rap's hottest groups. Each carries a different dynamic: Quavo the charismatic, Offset the technical wizard, and Takeoff, well, there's not necessarily an idea to attach to him that exists within words; "different" would perhaps be closest. To backdrops of lively trap beats, the three perform thunderous airshows with Takeoff typically being the closing verse. With Quavo leading on, and Offset usually being the scene-stealer, Takeoff's verses are just kind of, well, there.

Still, this mediocrity has spurred an obsessive fascination with his work, even if it lacks the sensation to make it sensible. Right when Quavo and Offset's solo careers started taking off for not so obvious reasons, videos like this began popping up. Viral tweets with his verse from "Slippery" on Culture and his guest feature on Gucci Mane's "I Get the Bag" painted his lyricism as next-level and his quietness as a front for hidden cunning, with these serving as indicators that his lack of emotion restrains hidden talent. But actually listening to his verses—not just for the absorbing flows which, admittedly, all three Migos excel at—will most likely disappoint. He doesn't go for punchlines outside of money and sex-related jokes, and even those are rudimentary. He's just kind of boring.

The fact that the world at-large refuses to acknowledge it puts him in an interesting place. The announcement that Migos would be delivering three solo albums was met with varying degrees of anticipation, with Quavo's widely expected to be the most adventurous. It wasn't. Surprisingly, instead of being placed third, Takeoff's comes next which makes for an interesting bit of play. His single "The Last Memory" released to mixed reviews, but one thing was clear: it's immediately more creative than everything on Quavo Huncho, save for "CHAMPAGNE ROSÉ." The flows are bog standard, but the beat and style switch-ups make for a nice stylish touch. It's boring, but somewhat unexpected. Its implications for the future remain to be seen.

With Quavo deemed uncreative, and Offset's presence mysteriously waning, Takeoff is becoming Migos' second-in-command without even really trying. The public's been vocal in their support of him, even when he was "left off Bad and Boujee" and proceeded to say that he would record an additional verse and never did. The "DJ Takeoff Challenge" recently sought to capitalize on his weirdness, but it seems to have fallen wayside. This weird ploy to increase his relevancy reads as if he isn't one of the group's main draws but, in fact, he is. Ahead of his album, it's hard to tell whether the group is worried it won't succeed or not.

Takeoff doesn't have the gimmicks afforded to him like his two peers—even if a last-ditch effort to get him one looks like it's backfiring. The Last Rocket hopefully captures some of the creativity evident on "The Last Memory" and pushes it in a bolder direction. He can learn from Quavo's failure and give his glowing fanbase something to celebrate since they're determined to find no fault in what he does. He's at a point where he can do no wrong in the public's eye so it's imperative that he pushes in a bold new direction. Not just for his sake, but Offset's and Quavo's as well.

I wrote about Quavo's album and what it meant for the idea of Migos a few weeks ago. My hopes were dashed when it came back as typical Migos trap rap minus two peers. Quavo figured that he knew what fans were expecting, so he wanted to play into their expectations. He revealed to GQ in a profile released shortly before the album that he would listen to the feedback so that he would know which direction he should take his music. Judging by Migos' longstanding criticism that their music is inventive, I'm willing to bet that this was bullshit. But the question is if this flunk was the public's final straw with Quavo, and if it is, it means that the foundation that Migos have built is on shaky ground.

The burden now falls to The Last Rocket to undo the damage that Quavo Huncho did by playing with the limits of the traditional Migos sound. His album shows that there's some bravery in there somewhere, he just needs to find and expand upon it. The worst possible thing that could happen would be that this strikes out as well, with the burden of Migos' world then placed upon Offset. Mounting pressure could break the ground they stand on, exposing them as one-trick ponies whose wells have dried up. There's a ton riding on Takeoff's The Last Rocket and I hope he's ready.

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