Liftoff was Atlanta Rap’s rocket fuel
For years, there have been heated debates about which Migos member is the best. This kind of cross-band ranking is a staple of the hip-hop fandom, whether it’s seeing Big Boi unfavorably over Andre 3000, no matter how much the Georgians themselves protested, or trying to compare individual stats, no matter how that wouldn’t be possible without a team effort. Yet despite Quavo’s brilliance as a de facto bandleader, or Offset’s natural charisma and skill set, my pick for MIgos top spot has always been Takeoff and even his more public bandmates would have supported this choice. Takeoff, who was shot and killed last week at the age of 28, was the youngest member of the trio, but he was the first in the group to start rapping, and his stacking of rhymes made it sound like he had been doing for decades. The band’s main technical stylist, he used to protest when Quavo called him the band’s best rapper, though in what may be his last interview, on Drink champions, he finally seemed to take that compliment to heart. “I mean, it’s time to give me my flowers.” I don’t want them when I’m not around,” he said.
Ten years ago, when Quavo and Offset had to network with nightclub and strip club DJs on behalf of the group, Takeoff wasn’t even old enough to drink. According to DJ Ray G, who was instrumental in the band’s rise out of their hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia, Takeoff was also not shy about staying home. He had other priorities: “We were coming home and he was still awake, smoking, relaxing, vibrating,” Ray G told me last week. “And you would check his YouTube history and it’s Tupac and Biggie, shit like that. This kid’s 16, studying his craft, like, ‘I’m not dating you tonight.’ I’ll stay here and listen to Big, Pac, Eminem.'”
Takeoff would demonstrate his diligence throughout his career, although his references to hip-hop’s past never felt so heavy because his verses were so dynamic. Migos could have picked any luxury brand to brag about, for example, even if only one had the hip-hop credibility that Takeoff craved, and now we can’t hear the brand name without hearing how it had used to say it: “I feel like Christopher Wallace / Versace, Versace, Versace. Getting a Drake remix for their first gold-selling hit, 2014’s ‘Fight Night’, may have shown that Migos had arrived. , but Takeoff’s writing signaled they were here to stay as he takes the lead and lands a left hook one rhyme after another: “If you know me, know this isn’t my feng shui / Certified everywhere, I don’t need to print my CV / Speaking of crazy, I shoot, andale / RIP to Nate Dogg, I had to regulate.” DJ Khaled would start a whole debate on the question of whether he was wrong to sample “Ms. Jackson,” a song considered “too classic” to sample. Yet there was no such debate with this year’s ‘Bars into Captions’, in which Takeoff rings home by interpolating parts of Andre 3000’s bridge and hook from ‘So Fresh, So Clean’. . It’s a remarkable moment on Designed for Infinity Links onlythe album he and Quavo released just 25 days before his death.
Helping trap music go mainstream is also a big part of his legacy. It was the younger Migo who reinvigorated triplet flow after Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Three 6 Mafia popularized it 20 years prior. “He just played a song one day, and the flow was there. It was the triplets, and everyone left, WhatRay G told me. The rest of Migos would follow suit, and the band single-handedly introduced triplet flow to a new generation of listeners. The world’s response felt as immediate as that of Ray G. Snoop Dogg complained that the whole rap sounded the same, though he clearly understood why: “It’s addicting, that shit will get you.”
This shit took us for nearly a decade thereafter and calling Migos the Beatles of our generation no longer felt like hyperbole: In 2017, “Bad and Boujee” became Migos’ first No. 1 hit (a song so addictive that Donald Glover took time during his big Golden Globes acceptance speech to thank the band for doing it), and their triplet flow – now universally known as “Migos Flow” – was adopted by the world of pop. Language proved to be no obstacle to Migos’ influence: even BT and BLACKPINK (on their hit “DDU-DU DUU-DU”) managed to take hold.