“I ain’t left off ‘Bad and Boujee,’ you think I’m left off ‘Bad and Boujee.”
Dated meme aside, Takeoff not having a line in Migos’s biggest hit is the best thing that could’ve happened to the group. Not because he can’t hold a candle to his compadres, but because sometimes the Migos are too much for their own good. As good as songs like “Bad and Boujee,” “Versace,” “Stir Fry” and “Narcos” are, they’re specs of gold in the frequently-overstuffed slog of Migos albums that have no business being 18 to 23 tracks long.
The Atlanta rap trio have a winning formula of Quavo’s auto-tuned hooks, Offset’s ice cold delivery and Takeoff’s gruff voice, all capable of tongue-tying triplet flows that sound effortless. But that loses its luster after a while, especially when all three members have the same energy on every single song. That’s when you need to break things up, either with the booming energy of Cardi B or some stupid ad-libs from Lil Uzi Vert. Or in this case, break up the Migos.
After trying their hand at separate collaborations and Kiss-esque solo albums, the world at large seems to agree that Offset is ready for his breakout moment (as long as he doesn’t embarrass Cardi B again). In the meantime, Quavo and Takeoff are keeping the vibes (and streaming income) flowing by sticking together. Rap purists can relax as Only Built For Infinity Links doesn’t sully the name of the album it apes its title from (Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx), sharing only a trendy title and vague themes of high rollers ruling the world in times of uncertainty.
Though it’s unreasonably stretched to 18 tracks (do these guys not remember when Culture was only 13 tracks?), most of the songs on Infinity Links hover around the 3:30 mark. In those smaller bursts (compared to recent Migos songs, anyway), there’s more fun to be had from the energy of “See Bout It,” “Hotel Lobby,” “2.30” and “Us vs. Them.”
You can tell Takeoff is particularly motivated to not be “the third Migo” anymore, picking up the triplet-flow slack while also flexing his particular southern drawl right from the getgo of “Two Infinity Links.” Quavo is better at doing Auto-Tune hooks than he is as a solo rapper, but he only has a few wavy choruses in his pocket (“Bad to the Bone,” “Nothing Changed,” “Integration”).
The remaining Migos will not be deterred as the stars of Infinity Links, with guest spots either blending well-enough with the duo (Youngboy Never Broke Again on “To The Bone” and Young Thug on “Chocolate”) or distractingly out of place. Summer Walker tries to add sex appeal to “Mixy” that neither Quavo nor Offset are able to convey, while “Big Stunna” further proves how little Birdman cares about the skill of rap compared to the money to be reaped from being a rapper. It seems that Quavo and Takeoff don’t want to leave their musical comfort zones, as the beats from frequent producers DJ Durel, Murda Beatz, Buddha Bless and Zaytoven stay in the cold, downplayed lanes of trap music.
There are pepperings of new ideas to the Migos formula, like the energetic soul sample elevating the drums on “Two Infinity Links” or the loose guitar work touching-up “Chocolate.” But the rest of the Migos music palette has gone stale (especially when stretched to 18 songs) and even though Quavo and Takeoff are taking some form of the “less is more” approach, they still won’t leave the nightclub of thumping drums and woozy synths. It’s a telling sign that the true highlight of the album, “Bars Into Captions,” is just the duo doing a slight remix of Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.”
There’s very little to say about Migos nowadays, so there’s even less to say about just Quavo and Takeoff on their own. Only Built For Infinity Links has no outstanding lyrical or stylistic revelation compared to other records from the Atlanta outlet, it’s just a lesser extension of the Migos brand. The duo want to brag that they can’t be stopped, but it’s more likely that they’re afraid to stop and lose their place in the rap world. If one link in the chain breaks, it can’t be built to last.