Migos, ‘Yung Rich Nation’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
With all of the music Migos have released in the past couple years, it's hard to believe that they're just now releasing their debut studio album, Yung Rich Nation.
Since they came into the public eye with "Versace" in 2013, they've consistently given fans new material every few months, either as a group or in joint mixtapes with Rich the Kid. Migos have maintained their goodwill and their tapes have been well-received, but releasing an album is an entirely different beast. Retail albums are held to a higher standard than free releases and listeners usually aren't as patient to dig through tracks to find the highlights when they pay for the final product. There's a reason the term "mixtape rapper" exists: some artists may do well with the free format, but when the time comes to release a studio record, they can't repeat the magic that built their hype in the first place.
Going into Yung Rich Nation, it seemed that Migos might be another group susceptible to "mixtape rapper" status. Even on their best projects like Y.R.N. and No Label 2, the tapes could be seen as too much of a good thing. They clocked in at over an hour and while Migos are masters of their repetitive pop-trap brand of rap music, that style could become grating if the project is listened to in full.
Luckily with Yung Rich Nation, Migos have addressed these potential problems in two ways. Unlike their mixtapes, the album is only 15 tracks and lasts less than an hour. Then, they've expanded their sound and have taken a few more stylistic turns here. While they're still the same Migos we heard on the original Y.R.N. tape, they've branched out a lot more for the studio release.
Everything that made Migos great on those first few tapes is on display during Yung Rich Nation. Their ad-lib game is still better than anybody else in the rap industry. The catchy, repetitive hooks are still prominent. Their patented triplet-style "Versace" flow is all over the place. Then of course, there is a good amount of Takeoff, Offset and Quavo making ridiculous boasts. Quavo says on "Dab Daddy" that he "bought a carpet from Aladdin, so I can finesse and do magic." On the very next track "Migos Origin," he reveals "When Offset got out of jail he ate a bowl of hundreds."
Watch Migos' "One Time" Video
What makes these three rappers unique is that even when they tread the same waters lyrically as the average MC, they do it in a way that's memorable and just damn fun. Even at their goofiest, there's still a sincerity to Migos that really sells their music. On album closer "Recognition," Quavo mentions wanting to make his grandmother proud, which is immediately followed-up by a "grandma!" ad-lib. It's an incredibly silly moment on one of the more reflective tracks on the LP, but it works because it feels natural with these guys.
While Migos' style is very much in line with what's hot in 2015, there's something remarkably old-school about Yung Rich Nation. The way they trade bars on verses during tracks like "Memoirs" is reminiscent of classic Run-D.M.C. or Beastie Boys. "Highway 85" is an obvious tribute to the classic storytelling tracks of hip-hop's golden age, especially Slick Rick's "Children's Story." The beat on "Gangsta Rap" even features record scratches from DJ Durel to give it some old-school authenticity.
Yung Rich Nation is a record that mostly works, but it's definitely not without its faults. The Chris Brown collaboration "Just for Tonight" seems like an obvious attempt at making a more pop-R&B-friendly track, but Migos' style of rap doesn't mesh well with Breezy's at all. Despite a killer beat on "Gangsta Rap," it's not entirely memorable outside of their proclamation that "gangsta rap is back" (which, considering the state of gangsta rap over the past decade, is an incredibly bold statement for them to make).
Everything else here is Migos magic, however. Young Thug, the only other featured collaborator on the project after Brown, has perfect chemistry with the trio on "Cocaina." Migos' flows wouldn't nearly be as effective as they are if they weren't over phenomenal instrumentals from the likes of Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E., Zaytoven and Murda Beatz. The beats are simplistic riffs, but still manage to pack a punch. They're perfect stomping grounds for Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff to try out their new flows and ad-libs.
Yung Rich Nation unfortunately doesn't have a single song that immediately stands out like "Versace," "Hannah Montana" and "Fight Night" did on previous projects (though lead single "One Time" comes close to reaching those heights). Instead, the group seems much more focused on creating a more cohesive album overall.
There's a lot less skipping through tracks to find the highlights here than on the mixtapes. It's not just a showcase of a few dozen songs with the same style. There's a more natural flow to the record, something that many "mixtape rappers" can never achieve and it showcases significant growth for the group in just the few years they've been around.
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