On June 11, Migos hope to put the rap game on notice again with Culture III.
The rap trio’s first two installments of the Culture series, 2016’s Culture and 2018’s Culture II, not only spawned multiple Hot 100 top 10 singles, most notably “Motorsport” and “Walk It, Talk It,” but also their crown jewel and sole No. 1 hit, 2017’s “Bad and Boujee.” Despite their impressive stat line and impact in music, Offset still believes the Atlanta group has yet to receive their just due.
“We made this trap [style] go pop,” says Offset in a new interview with Billboard. “They don’t talk about that. We made trap go pop talking about selling pounds and bricks, and we hit Billboard No. 1. Hip-hop artists weren’t going No. 1 like that, but now it just be ‘bang, bang, bang.'”
After a three-year hiatus which included solo albums from each member, Migos finally returns to quash any doubts with surefire hits and steely flows. Their newest single, the trunk-rattling “Straightenin,” finds the trio test-driving new deliveries in hopes of reinventing the wheel once again. Recently debuting at No. 38 on the Hot 100, their latest single is a strong indicator of how surgical and polished they have become in the eight years since their breakthrough, “Versace.”
“We not just doing one verse and one verse — we’re switching it up,” explains Offset. “We doing things other people can’t do because we the only group. We got creative with our flows, so we could stamp another [movement]. We feel like we gonna lead the pack with this album.”
Billboard spoke to Offset about Culture III, how going solo made him a better group member, his personal growth during the pandemic and more.
Whose idea was it to come with the “We back” press release for the Culture III announcement?
We just been doing everything as one. It’s been a brotherhood, and we came up with the idea ourselves because it’s a big comeback. We want to show ’em that we back. It’s been three years and we ain’t drop no music. We want to come with it and let the music talk. We didn’t want to do no gimmicks. I feel like I’m a respected artist. I don’t make the bubblegum [music].
What did you take from your solo journey, working on your 2019 album Father of 4, that you ended up bringing to Culture III?
Just content with records and just coming from my heart and saying not so much about the glitz and glam. Once you get to a certain level, you talk about what you see so much because you made it out of a situation. I just wanted to be more personal with my fans so they really know who Offset is and not think they know. I want it to come from me and let them know what’s important to me like my family and kids. I just want to give them an open Offset, for real.
Can you talk about your quarantine experience, and how voting for the first time reshaped your mindset as a man and an artist?
It was time to sit down. With me being who I am, I’m so busy and running around so much that I ain’t had that time in seven or eight years. It really opened up my eyes to see what’s going on in the world, and not just my world. I’m so focused on being creative in my headspace and I’m jumping around traveling everywhere, you don’t really see what’s going on.
With quarantine, I seen everybody struggle. Even if you made money, as an artist, it was still a setback because you couldn’t spread a project to the fans by doing shows. People don’t understand how important doing shows is to an artist, no matter how big or how small a stage is. Giving fans that experience for the first time, they’d never get that.
When I was on tour, I’d do a show in Minneapolis, then I’d check my Twitter and have thousands of new fans who weren’t really worried about Offset before, but now they got to see a show. Also, I’m seeing a lot of our Black people struggling with this quarantine. I had to help friends and family members with people losing their jobs back-and-forth. My mom got sick with COVID and I wasn’t able to leave. I was just able to sit back and see a lot of real s–t going on.
With voting, I just never felt like I was a part of that. I was young, too. I’m just a grown man now, and I understand the importance and we can only change things by voting. Me being able to vote, I know a lot of kids that were in my situation that never voted before. When I went to Gwinnett [County], I know I helped Biden win on that. I don’t want to name him in the thing, but it’s the facts. Gwinnett County was in the red at first, and then when I did that, it went to blue. It’s the first time Georgia did that in like 10 or 20 years. Contributing to that, I felt the power, and it was just the right thing to do.
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You love trying to help people win. Even with [HBO Max streetwear competition show] The Hype, you gave opportunities to young entrepreneurs trying to breakthrough in the streetwear game. What did you gain from that from a creative standpoint, watching these young kids trying to chase their dreams?
For me, it was just being able to give these kids a chance. In the streetwear world, these kids be underground. You’ll see these brands come out with things these kids wore two years ago and charging thousands of dollars for the same thing these kids created. Then these kids don’t get the credit for creating.
Being a creator from music, I’m humble and I always remember the times I didn’t have any resources. Coming up on the North, there’s no studios. We had to learn Mixcraft and free programmers where we had to record in one take. There was no stop and [we] didn’t know the radio stations. I remember how that felt to have no resources but be great at what you do. To give them kids the opportunity to show their talents and be designers, this is a new time in streetwear. Look at Virgil [Abloh] — you’ve seen him but you’ve never seen Maison Margiela. It’s a new wave, and giving the kids the opportunity to be creative with their clothing by being on the show, it just reminded me of me.
Let’s switch gears and get to the music. I remember David Banner saying that artists are taking your flows and not giving you all the proper credit. Do you agree?
Yeah bro. It’s a fact. If you go back in time and listen to music prior to 2013, the cadence and the flow didn’t matter. It was more about the bars and what you’re saying. Now, people get away with not saying nothing as long as the cadence and flow are good, and I feel like we created that. We did. I remember when Quavo was most influential in 2013. It just don’t be no respect given but that’s how my generation is anyway. A lot of kids don’t know about 2Pac and don’t respect it. It just be blowing my mind. I just take it as, you gotta keep proving to people who you are. And that’s okay with me, because that’s been my life story.
That’s how we came into this. We the forefront, but the story of our lives before music was about proving ourselves. We cool with that because that pressure brings humbleness and forces another side of creativity to come out. We feel like our backs are against the wall, and [it’s time to] let us show people what it really is.
What can we expect from Culture III?
This is three years of creativity and sitting back, because we felt like the fans deserved that. We didn’t want to make nobody upset, but our main thing was creating the best project we ever created. We gotta top Culture and Culture II and that’s not even about first-week sales. A lot of people get lost in that but it’s about the creativity and the records and what they mean when you talk to me.
If I ask for a definition on each record, could you tell me what we’re talking about or what we mean? I think we did a great job with the way we bouncing the three flows. We not just doing one verse and one verse, we’re switching it up. We doing things other people can’t do because we the only group. We got creative with our flows so we could stamp another. We feel like we gonna lead the pack with this album.
Is there one track, in particular, you can’t stop playing back?
Yeah, it’s gonna be called “Avalanche.” N—-s is walking on that s–t. You gonna see. Just know, you gonna respect n—-s musically so much with what we did with that record, the sound especially.
I wonder since the band is back together, did y’all make it an emphasis to not rely on features or are you guys bringing any special friends to the party?
Light on the features. It’s straight us, bro. At the end of the day, we made all these records in the lab together. No verses were sent, and we took time out to be at every session. Migos time — I don’t want to go get everybody doing their thing, but I want my respect. I know what we gon’ do.
You recently teamed up with DJ Khaled and H.E.R. on “We Going Crazy.” What was that vibe like?
Salute Khaled, man. He’s a real GOAT, and a true man of creativity. He stands behind everything he do. He don’t care what nobody thinks or says and he’s a real producer, so you gotta trust him. He came to us with that beat and mixed it in and we looked at him crazy like, “What the f–k?” We went to his crib in Miami and knocked them verses down. We were already planning on locking in with H.E.R., maybe for her album, and then the Khaled record came in right on time.
The boy Khaled treat you like a general and he respect who you are. He sent the jet for the boys — the biggest. This is to get on his record. He sent the big boy there and back. We do the song the first night we get there and he’s got us there for three or four days. He told us to do our thing and he just wanted the verse and told us to enjoy ourselves. We asked him to see the nasty white Maybach so we could use it for a video. He said, “Bet, no problem.” We shot a video with the car and we had to bring him his car back, he didn’t even call! That’s a million-dollar car. He treat you how I would treat him. Jet back home, everything was player. Great father, I believe in that.
You’ve been nasty on these features lately, especially on IDK’s “Shoot My Shot” and Lil Tjay’s “Run It Up.” Despite you being back in group mode, are you still gonna be crafting verses on the feature side?
Oh yeah. So what I did was I stepped back from everything because I wanted to make sure our foundation was set right. You know how the house got a foundation? It’s gonna fall if the foundation ain’t right, so I focused in and that’s why I took a year-and-a-half off from it. My last feature with Kodak Black [“Zeze”] went crazy. That’s like seven or eight times platinum. I felt like I should go to the group first, and once this album come, I gotta keep coming and walking on them.
Like, the Lil Tjay one was crazy, and people don’t even know the story. We hit each other up and he had to turn his album in that Friday. I got the record on Thursday and shot the video on Saturday and he dropped it on Sunday. It was just like that. It was a full process. Boom! It ended up working out and I just went and shot my scene and we made it look like magic. It was crazy.
That reminds me of when you said J. Cole sent you his verse at the buzzer when you had to turn in your project.
Shout-out to Cole, man. He just dropped that album and that s–t is so hard. I respect him as a creator because he stands on himself. He ain’t doing nothing [he don’t want to do] — he dress how he dress.