Migos: The Versace Power Rangers
"We were just so turned up!
Backstage at BET's “106 and Park,” the members of Migos are lounging, bantering casually and projecting the relaxed indifference of guys who have been here before. Which they have twice. Or rather, just two of them have: Quavo and Takeoff. The third member, Offset, sits a little less slouched in his chair and seems a little more intrigued by the presence of an interviewer, answering questions directly and appearing to take everything in with at least a bit of wide-eyed amazement.
It's his first trip to “106 & Park” and one of his biggest glimpses of the frenzy that's come to surround the group in the previous months. Over the spring and summer, the Atlanta trio became the hottest new thing in rap, thanks to the excitement surrounding their single “Versace” and the immediate positive response to their June mixtape, Y.R.N. (Young Rich Niggas). Offset, however, was serving a prison sentence from February to October, so he'd only been experiencing the incredible parade of career highlights—a Drake remix of “Versace” that drastically elevated their profile, numerous TV and magazine appearances, soundtracking the closing moments of Versace's Milan runway show in September—by word of mouth.
Now that he's back and once again seamlessly integrated into the group, they're faced with the challenge that comes from sudden success: how do you sustain it and avoid being one summer's hot trend? The answer for Migos has been to quickly prepare a follow-up project, Y.R.N. 2, and, if the songs that they've shared from it so far—like the cinematic “Jealousy” and the lightly auto-tuned “Ran Up The Money”—have been any indication, subtly expand upon their sound while keeping their inimitable sense of humor and reckless energy.And there's plenty to suggest that Migos will only keep growing bigger. While the group's hooks are often simple, they are rarely one-dimensional, and, as the relentless borrowing of the “Migos flow” over the past few months has shown, the trio is formally inventive. They're also deceptively clever: lyrical highlights from the above songs include gems such as “Quavo the head honcho/got girls on me like a poncho” and “got niggas that come through your chimney/like the grinch that stole Christmas,” for instance. In person, they're just as funny and enthusiastic as they sound on record. In that backstage room at BET, we talked about the next stage of their career, EDM, Offset's time in prison, Bill Cosby, Egyptian pharaohs and more.
Noisey: Offset, what's it like coming into the group now, with you guys being so big and the other two having done so much?
Offset: Every experience I go through day to day is a new experience for me. But they help me along, teach me what's going on, keep me knowing. Because sometimes I don't know what's going on. But it's exciting. It's a great feeling. I thank God first for putting me in this situation. But everything's crazy to me: shows, '106 & Park,' interviews. You interviewing me right now is crazy to me.
You've reached a solid level of success, and people kind of know what to expect from you now. What do you think you need to do to keep things fresh, to move up to the next level?
Quavo: I think we need to experience different avenues of music and try different lanes and try different beats and try different producers and try different artists. And we've got different artists that are coming out of our independent label. They've got different music, so we're hopping on their songs. So that's different avenues of music, but everything's going to be within the family.
What are some of the different sounds you guys want to play with?
Offset: Quavo's crazy on the hooks, so we just talked to [manager] Coach K earlier about getting us some pop beats, to try to go on the pop side, try and do something different.
Takeoff: Like trap EDM. EDM shit and rave shit.
Do you listen to that kind of music?
Takeoff: Nah, we don't listen to it, but they EDM [remixed] our whole mixtape, so we heard it. It seemed kind of hard.
Quavo: Kind of hard.
Takeoff: So I would want to get on it instead of them taking our music and critiquing it or fixing it or whatever. I want to do a song on a beat like that. Then they're embracing trap now.
Yeah, there's this whole genre of “trap” EDM.
Quavo: It's cool, though, I like it.
Takeoff: I fuck with it.
Quavo: There's different types of trap. They're calling everything trap. We don't even call it trap. We call it bando. So they can have the trap.
Takeoff: We're bando music. We're in the bando.
Does it change your guys' songwriting process having Offset back?
Offset: We never wrote a song before. We ain't ever wrote no song. Everything we do come straight off the dome. We go into the booth and record it and it comes out a masterpiece.
Takeoff: We've got like a 20-minute rule. If you can't get in there in 20 minutes and just do what you've got to do, you've got to get out.
Offset: Next person up.
So you guys rotate. Each of you gets your 20 minutes.
Offset: Right. But it's never where somebody's got to get kicked out because we've been doing it so long it's just (snaps three times) like that. We go in, do the verse.
Takeoff: If you don't do it in 20 minutes, you're going to mess up the vibe and everything.
Will one of you have an idea for a hook and suggest it to the others? Do you just go in the booth and try things out?
Takeoff: Quavo'll go in there and spit what he's got to say on his mind. After he spits it, he's going to play it, [see] if it sounds good.
Quavo: We don't have no conference on the song. We just go in there and say something first.
Takeoff: If you go in there and spit it then you come out and play it, [it's like] 'all right, do this.'
Quavo: Of they've got something they want me to say, maybe they might –
Takeoff: 'Change that bar, put this there, switch it up.'
But it works best when all three of you are in the studio together?
Takeoff: I might make a song one in there by myself, and he comes back and hears it.
Quavo: We make most of our songs alone in the studio. We don't really be in the studio together like that. They might be in the other room. Like, in the building, but they're doing something. He might be playing a game.
Offset: I might be texting one of my lady friends. He might be like 'Ay, come and see this. Boom!'
Quavo: We leave homework for each other. And they'll go crank six songs, and I'll come back.
Takeoff: Or he'll go crank six songs.
What kind of things or names stick out to you where you might stumble across it and think 'that has to be a hook for a song?'
Quavo: We don't even do that. We just use our lingo. It's our lingo! It comes out naturally. Just like how you're talking, it comes out naturally.
Takeoff: Whatever comes to your head, whatever you're saying, you're just going to make a nickname for it or however it is.
So you're never like 'we have to do a song about X celebrity?'
All three: Hell nah.
You guys are all related to each other, right? What's the relationship?
Quavo: I'm the uncle. Quavo's the uncle.
Takeoff: Takeoff's the nephew.
Offset: Offset is the cousin. Of Takeoff and Quavo.
So you guys have known each other your whole lives. Did you grow up close to each other?
Takeoff: Yeah, stayed with each other. Literally.
What was that like?
Quavo: Just competition. Like you and your big brothers and stuff.
Offset: Just family. Fighting and playing around. We've got each other's back. We love each other. It's deeper than just being cool. Recorded all our songs ourselves at the house. The majority of the songs that's on the mixtape were recorded by us and engineered by us. At the house.
Takeoff: The bando.
What does the rest of the family think about it?
Takeoff: They're proud of us.
Offset: Mamas are proud to see us doing something successful and something that's right instead of doing the wrong things in life.
Do you go back to family gatherings and have people treat you different or anything?
Takeoff: Nah, it be the same.
Quavo: I hate when the family try and make me a celebrity. I don't like that. We'll take pictures but we ain't going to take no advantage. That's our family.
Takeoff: But some family do do you like that though. They want you to turn up.
Do your family or friends expect you guys to be like that, to turn up all the time?
Quavo: Nah, we've been like that. We've been turnt up.
Takeoff: Even before we were rapping, we was just always turnt up. We liked to have fun.
Offset: That's how we made our name.
Quavo: DJ Ray G, he was in the club.
Takeoff: That was our DJ before everything.
Quavo: Going crazy in the club. He really didn't give a fuck about nothing. He didn't care about nothing. We were just dropping shit, dropping shit, dropping, dropping, dropping. We didn't care.
DJ Ray G: I'm older than them, so I went to school with their big brothers and their sisters. It's still family. I didn't give a fuck about nobody else but us. Because if we blow, they're going to put me on. But say the promoter, he don't like me one day, he's going to to fire me. It's family right here. It's forever. So it was like, 'fuck these niggas, let's turn up.' And that's what we did. We had our own money, we had our own bitches, we had our own drugs. Everything. It was like we'd come in the club and we'd really turn your club into an amusement park. You might as well call Mansion Six Flags every Friday. Every single Friday.
Were there ever moments where you guys were demoralized, like they won't play our songs?
Quavo: Nah, we didn't even really know what we were doing. It started out every week buying bottles in the VIP, just buying bottles, playing our favorite songs. And that shit turned into a routine.
Takeoff: In the regular club. We were throwing money.
Offset: We were throwing money in the regular club, not the strip club.
Takeoff: We turned the regular club into the strip club.
That's amazing. Why?
Offset: We were just so turned up! We were young with money. Everybody's looking at us, so we might as well give them a show. And this is a true statement. It's on YouTube. Everything is on footage, what we're saying. Not playing no bullshit. We were in the club going crazy. That was before. So that's what they expect. They all knew we were going to turn up. We were turnt up then.
That must have been pretty expensive though.
Quavo: Shit, we didn't know what we were doing. It wasn't like “okay, this is our budget, we're going to do promoting.” We were really going to the club every Friday just 'cause we wanted to and playing our music just 'cause we wanted to. And then we seen the people's feedback and were like 'damn we've really got something strong here.' But we didn't know that until after we stopped going to the clubs and really sat down and were like 'we really do got something.'
So you were just spending money regardless.
Quavo: Yeah, every Friday, buying the section.
Offset: For the girls.
How have you seen things change now, when you go to the club and stuff?
Quavo: It's good to see the interracial—everybody together, everybody from all different colors and races, just to see them all in one building. And certain sides, certain clubs, you see them normally, it's not like that. So that's exciting for us.
Takeoff: They come and pack out the club for us.
Offset: We love our fans. Shout out to all our fans.
Quavo: Chance the Rapper got in there and brought us out for a minute.
Takeoff: He's got a whole different fan base.
Quavo: At Center Stage [a venue in Atlanta]. They were going crazy. Crowd surfing and everything.
Do you guys crowd surf?
Takeoff: I ain't ever tried crowd surfing.
Quavo: I've got too much jewelry to be crowd surfing!
Takeoff: I ain't ever tried it, but I might try it one day.
Quavo: I'm going to try it, though. I'm going to take [the jewelry] off and go right in there. I hope they catch me. I'm just scared of them moving out of the way.
Ray G: You were getting ready to crowd surf at Fool's Gold, though. But you had your jewelry. Remember, you were like 'Oh, I've got my jewelry on.'
Quavo: That was crazy. Fool's Gold was crazy. About 10,000 [people] out there.
Do people mosh at your shows normally?
Takeoff: “Hannah Montana” causes a mosh pit. I don't know why.
In “Chinatown” you use the names of all these “Mortal Kombat” characters—
Quavo: Asian plugs. It ain't got nothing to do with “Mortal Kombat,” it's just who he looks like.
Takeoff: Who he looks like. His daughter looks like Kitana.
Quavo: Like my boy looks like Bill Cosby. I say he looks like Bill Cosby. I put it in a song. You're just comparing, comparing something that other people can relate to. Everybody laughs because they can relate to Bill Cosby. Everybody can relate to “Mortal Kombat.” See y'all didn't even know it was a plug. We're talking trap, but we're really talking something that everybody can relate to.
If you had to make a song and compare each other to different people, who do you think you look like?
Quavo: Ain't nobody like us. We look like money.
Takeoff: We look like gold.
Offset: Young pharaohs.
Takeoff: Gold. Gold bricks.
Offset: We look like Egyptian kings.
Takeoff: Gold, gooooold. E-gyp-tian.
Offset: We don't look like nobody around here. It's nobody around here that looks like us.
What do you guys think the other two each bring to the group, musically?
Offset: Swag, dripping. Crazy, going crazy on the track. We've got bars, too, so you need to just listen. Quavo is stupid on the hooks, stupid verses. Takeoff's 19 and killing a lot of folks in the rap game. A lot of folks don't even know my boy's 19 years old and going crazy like that.
Takeoff: (Slight patois and rap cadence) Young rich nigga only 19, and you better acknowledge me … (Normal voice) We're not no lyricists, but we've got bars.
Quavo: Crazy as fuck, nigga. I'm a lyricist, nigga, it's just not your type of lyrics.
Takeoff: That's what I'm saying. It's not all the battle rap and all that type.
Offset: You've got to listen.
Takeoff: We're versatile. We can go different. If you heard the “Pound Cake” freestyle, we can switch it up. We can do different stuff.
Quavo: I say we're like the Power Rangers. We've got all different colors, and then we come together and make that one big-ass machine at the end. That's it. Everybody's got their own different color and then we make that machine.
Offset, to go back, how were you feeling while you were in prison, day to day?
Offset: I was feeling lucky to be in my position, but some days you have ups and downs when you're in a messed up situation. But I knew I was good, at the end of the day. And I just had to get past that obstacle to live how I live now. So God put me in that situation to teach me something.
What I learned from it? Don't take nothing, don't take life for granted. Because you can have it all or you can have nothing. You can watch your surroundings – I let [Quavo and Takeoff] down, the whole time I locked up. I let them down the whole time I was not there. They held my weight because they're my family, but I let them down. There are people that depend on you, and you've got a position to play. And God can put you in a situation where you're winning, or he can put you in a situation where you're losing.
Were you talking to them while you were in there?
Yeah, I talked to them. Every situation they went through, they told me what they were going through. I talked to them on the day to day. They kept me straight.
What was the thing that surprised you most that they told you while you were there?
“Go watch '106 & Park.'” And then I watched it, and they were on it.
Kyle Krame's favorite Power Ranger is the blue one. He's on Twitter - @KyleKramer