Migos and the Mainstream's Myopic Vision of Rap: Can They Survive Oversaturation?
With an onslaught of pop features and a recent Met Gala performance, Migos are becoming harder to escape.
Despite all of the Getty images and iPhone pics splashed across social media, there’s still a Fight Club-esque code when it comes to the Met Gala, where once you enter, nothing of it can be discussed. In recent years, it’s become slightly more transparent, though that clandestine cloak still piques the interest of fame voyeurs gawking from the outside. Hip-hop has slowly inched its way into the fold, and given rap’s fascination with the Illuminati, an event of this nature speaks directly to that obsession.
This year was no different. The now-usual suspects got to play: Future, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa (now comfortable enough to smoke on the red carpet), A$AP Rocky and even newbies like Lil Yachty.
And then there's Migos, the latest fixation for socialite society. They held the unique honor of being the first rap group to ever perform at the Met Gala. It’s one of those clear crossover moments, and by the looks of their latest endeavors, the mainstream can’t get enough of them. Migos have shown up everywhere: in Champs ads, on late-night shows doing skits, and now, the Met Gala.
When Migos arrived in matching Versace tuxedos at the 2017 Met Gala, it felt like redemption. Their 2013 commercial debut “Versace” barely scraped the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 99. A year later, they would be public enemies numbers one, two, and three when fans began suggesting they were better than The Beatles, a self-imposed comparison on Migos' "Hannah Montana." That audacious remark had the greater public clutching their pearls, with signature repetitive lyrics becoming meme fodder as if to suggest "these are your heroes?"
And so Migos pushed on, until their cult following became a religion. By the summer of 2016, they released “Bad And Boujee,” produced by the newly famed Metro Boomin. It arrived in tandem with Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” so anyone with a limited knowledge of hip-hop regarded the two Atlanta-bred groups interchangeably. Since Migos had arguably the greater historical cache, they inherited most of Rae Sremmurd’s praise. “Bad and Boujee” boomed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, when the group was used to seeing double digits in chart positions over the years. Somewhere in between that moment and playing with office supplies on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Migos became "The Migos," an obvious pun on being compared to the Beatles -- a theory punctuated by Donald Glover earlier this year.
Perhaps it’s the "new money" vibe of “Bad and Boujee” that has the mainstream so suddenly fixated on them. As a group, Migos currently have seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100: “Bad and Boujee,” "T-Shirt," "Slippery" with Gucci Mane, "Kelly Price" with Travis Scott, "Call Casting," "Get Right Witcha," and "Culture" with DJ Khaled. Add to that Calvin Harris’ recent “Slide” with Frank Ocean, along with a staggering four tracks that all dropped within the same week: their guest feature on Katy Perry’s “Bon Appétit,” Sean Paul’s "Body," plus Quavo’s solo spots on Mary J. Blige’s “Glow Up” (with Missy Elliott and DJ Khaled), and DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” (featuring Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper, and Lil Wayne). Are we approaching overkill or nah?
"It actually makes me really proud," says Hot 97 radio personality Laura Stylez. "I love that they’re able to collaborate and cross over with the Katy Perrys of the world." Stylez adds that while Migos gets to attend functions like the Met Gala, where their visual style has noticeably evolved, they’re still the heart of who they are musically. "It’s still their true Migos self," she explains. "'Bad and Boujee' gave me the same feeling as when I heard [2014’s] 'Fight Night' for the first time.”
And she’s right; none of the songs that feature Migos appear to change that Migos formula. The difference is the company they’re keeping and the pace at which they’re keeping it. But the level of fame that Migos has amassed in almost a calendar year eclipses any future releases in the eye of the greater public. Their saturation on the charts comes from pop’s fad fetish, when really the group is no more talented than they were back in 2013. Migos fans can attest to the fact that they had great songs long before Versace acknowledged their homage. And like most things that swim in the mainstream, even the biggest hater will be forced into submission.
However, once you’ve become the apple of the glamorati’s eye, you approach a crossroads once it’s all over. You either quietly slide into the mix, à la A$AP Rocky, you vanish à la Juicy J, or make a lot of noise à la Kanye West. Migos’ next moves won’t really dictate any direction until it’s been determined for them. “I know some people are concerned that they’re going to sell out or water down their brand and change," Laura Stylez says. "I really don’t think so, though, because at the end of the day I really think they enjoy making their music. They’re very aware of how much they’re influencing other people."
Perhaps they will convince the mainstream into believing the credo that they are the millennial Beatles, but that would involve rewiring preconceptions on rappers. So what happens when they’re no longer bad or boujee? Once they’re done being pop’s playthings, can they really return to hip-hop with open arms? "At the end of the day, I don’t think that will ever stop us from playing [Migos]," Stylez adds. “We love them for the true essence of who they are.” It’s not the first time it’s happened, so it certainly wouldn’t be the last.