By Ryan Switzer
To describe Migos’ rise to hip-hop glory as meteoric would not only be an understatement but a cliché way to start an article about Migos. It’s just a mandatory detail in any analysis of the rap trio that has been described as the Saviors of Hip-Hop. Also necessary is some degree of praise:
No one has ridden Atlanta’s post-Gucci Mane trap explosion with as much creativity and energy as Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. Their lyrics have the speed and precision of a machine gun with a duct taped scope. Their timing and ad libs suggest a brilliant, shared brain. If such a thing is possible, the Migos have it. They consider each other brothers (though Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle and Offset is Quavo’s cousin.) All three grew up under one roof in Gwinnett County, all calling the same woman Mama.
Their shared coming-of-age experiences snappin’ and trappin’ enrich the tales they spin. While each Migo has a distinct voice and style, at their peaks they blend together in a melody that can result in a contact high. You can smell the dope cooking.
They can be entertaining:
The way she shake that ass she make me wanna make a million babies
I got a bag on my back like I’m Santa Clause / Finesse a nigga, Papa John’s up in Panama
And poignant every once in a while:
Grandma’ told me and Quavo to be patient / Grandma was a cancer patient / Before she died, she sat us down, said stay together and we’re gonna make it.
Of the many titles given to the Lawrenceville trio, “Written About” is probably the most objectively true. Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff’s journey from Mama’s house to three sold-out nights in Paris has been meticulously chronicled. As a musical act of the 21st century, media coverage is inevitable. But in Migos’ case specifically, it’s resulted in a lot of ascriptions. They’re better than The Beatles. Quavo is the most influential rapper of 2014. They’re the first important group of the 21st century.
Though there’s some higher truth in these hyperboles, they’re largely perpetuated by an appropriative, ironic white Twitter audience. It would be irresponsible and incorrect to trace this audience’s birth directly back to Noisey. Consider it more of a prime case study than an origin.
In early 2015, Vice News’s musical talon reached into the bachelors’ Lawrenceville pad in episode two of their Noisey special on the Atlanta trap scene. For ten pretty entertaining minutes, Thomas Morton (picture the face of an appropriative, ironic audience), parades around the Atlanta nightclub scene with the Bachelors. He ogles at the AR-15’s slung across their chests and the bulky bag of weed on a marble kitchen counter.
The scene is bizarre, authentic, and intoxicating. In one scene, an overdub of Morton’s nasally voice remarks that Migos’ influence has “reached the whitest corners of mainstream music.” That’s where they are now, but it hasn’t always been that way.
In the early years, Migos would hit three or four clubs a night, buying the DJ a drink, and requesting one of their own songs. Their first hit “Bando” was a regional success that started getting radio time after becoming an Atlanta strip club staple. At one point, Migos’ original fan base was black clubgoers. At another point in between those nights at Mansion Elon and today, the internet got a hold of them. With the internet came Lyor Cohen.
Migos’ Youtube views and Twitter chatter attracted the attention of 300 Entertainment. Despite two mixtapes entitled No Label (I and II) Migos signed to the Warner Bros. affiliated label, run by “culture vulture” Lyor Cohen. In the historical narrative of “White Record Label Owner Meets Promising Young Black Artist” this would be the point where the talent is exploited. Yet, there’s no evidence of that in the Migos’ instance (besides a mediocre major label debut.)
We don’t know much about what happened under the tutelage of Cohen. From a few public statements the relationship seemed to be largely positive. “He’s a mentor,” Quavo told Rolling Stone. “He’s the plug. He might call me and cuss at me; I might call him and cuss at him. That’s a good-ass relationship.” That quote was from June of this year.
On September 17th, Migos simultaneously announced their new mixtape “Back to the Bando” and a break from 300 Entertainment. Their motivations for doing so are unclear. We can only speculate on why the break occurred.
Traditional Migo Motivation Theory would suggest that the break was profit motivated. The squad’s priorities have been clear from the first words of the first track of their first mixtape: “Rich then famous / Rich then famous / Nigga I’d rather be rich then famous.” Migos never intended on shying from fame all together (they did pick “then” instead of “than.”) The decision to link up with Cohen was surely profit motivated. Signing with 300 made them millionares.
Perhaps they were displeased with the poor sales of Young Rich Nation (their first and possibly only release under 300.) Despite debuting at #3 on the charts, it only sold 15,000 copies in the first week. But that doesn’t warrant a complete break from a label, particularly on a major label debut.
Recent events in the Migo Universe suggest the split as an act of self preservation. One move in a highly calculated series of actions taken to distance themselves from the white establishment media following the arrest and imprisonment of Offset. Following a concert at Georgia Southern and a “potent” kush smell coming from the tour bus, all three Migos were arrested. Quavo and Takeoff were let out on bail but Offset, with a previous felony on his record, is still locked up in a Statesboro prison. Migos’ have maintained that the arrest was racially motivated.
The Migos’ public defensive started on ESPN’s Highly Debatable, when Quavo and Takeoff announced that the now infamous Noisey special was “a movie.” With mischievous grins and giggles they claimed that it was all scripted and “acted out.” The incredulous reactions of the hosts were less believable than the Noisey episode. In a few rare instances of comment section clarity, other viewers confirmed the obvious. According to TheBlackSheep19, “[This] show always try to get ppl caught up, cops cant get [them] so they try getting [them] to snitch on theirselves #ESPNBeUndercovers.”
Step two is Back to the Bando. The only thing less subtle than the motifs of the latest mixtape is its title. It simultaneously represents a return to their roots:
Back to the bando we go / Back to the basics, they lovin’ the flow
And a condemnation of their new enemies within the media:
Fuck the mansion we gone back to the bando / We don’t want no company nigga / No more interviews, no more discussions / We closin’ the door on these niggas
The mixtape is full of allusions to the group’s insecurity. It’s no coincidence that the same tweet announcing the mixtape also announced their break from 300 Entertainment.
In the spirit of hyper-analysis, this break could be considered a quiet, positive footnote in a musical decade defined by institutional racism’s infiltration of rap music. Tiresome Twitter conflicts between Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and whoever else always seem to end in the defeat of the black artist despite the liberal internet’s reaction (think Bernie Sanders winning the first Democratic debate.) It’s the story of a group defying the norms and the story laid out for them.
It’s also important that these actions aren’t considered an attack on the white media: they’re defensive moves aimed at marginally improving their image in an attempt to “Free my nigga Offset, ASAP, so a young nigga can get back to the money.” The relationship between 300 and Migos was a conscious coupling followed by an unconscious uncoupling – a profit motivated experiment cut short by factors outside of Migos’ control. Back to the Bando is an acknowledgement and rejection of their (in the words of a friend) “pinheaded, iconoclastic” white Twitter audience. It’s a strategic, unorthodox move wrapped in the textbook triple time snare beats and cinematic string samples that put trap on the map.
They’ve taken control of their fate and their riches. Though Migos may face challenges on ESPN, in Statesboro, and in the New York penthouse office of Lyor Cohen, they “ain’t never gonna have trap problems.”
Many thanks to Andrew Judd (the quoted friend) for his conversation and blog. Check it out.
 Any reference to these claims from Migos themselves comes with a “sure alright.” A largely indifferent acknowledgement occasionally tinged with pride. In keeping with their atypical persona and style, Migos don’t have the Kanye-hubris we’ve come to associate with hip-hop. They call attention to their clothes, the quality of their dope, their Lambos, and hoes, but never the flow.
 It all honesty, he’s pretty hilarious.
 According to writer, Drew Millard, the joke probably originated from Quavo’s verse in Hannah Montana: “I’m in London with the plug, gettin’ the same car as The Beatles.” That mixtape was released on June 13, 2013. On June 22, @Pipe_Tyson tweeted, “Migos best music group since the Beatles.”
 Actions most likely proposed and implemented by Coach K.: Migos’ mentor, producer, and manager. Migos’ chuckled-at Lawrenceville McMansion was K.’s idea. His job description tends to extend beyond production and into babysitting.
 In the words of a friend that gave me a lot of advice on this piece: “…what’s more interesting is the Bomani Jones fans who don’t give a shit about hip-hop who are completely baffled as to why Migos was on the program in the first place.”