I’ll be honest – before Donald Glover did that shout-out to Migos during his Golden Globes’ acceptance speech, I didn’t really know who they were. I was too busy obsessing over being a pretentious music snob and claiming that I listen to ‘actual’ hip-hop, not ridiculous and cheesy trap anthems. After listening to Bad and Boujee though, I do have to say… it has completely changed my life.
I’m joking, my life is still marked by the same old existential crises and questionable takeaway decisions. However, whenever I plug my headphones in and the familiar opening lines, ‘Raindrop, drop-top,’ hits me, it’s safe to say that my day improves a little bit (and the chorus gets stuck in my head for the rest of the day).
it is this very unintelligibility which makes it fun to listen to
So, when exactly did this sudden wave of incoherent bars over a fresh beat start to flood our ears? Well, it’s certainly not a new concept. Mumble rap has been around longer than we think – it’s just that this recent batch of rappers makes us think otherwise. Take Future, for instance. He released his debut album Pluto in 2012, and has been around for 7 years. He didn’t catch much attention until his second album, Honest; which combined trap beats, an auto-tuned hybrid of rap-singing, and star features such as Kanye West, Lil Wayne and André 3000. Honest established Future as a competent rapper within mainstream rap. Now let’s not also forget Young Thug – he is questionable as a human being, but his rapping possesses a strange and unique quality. Refer to the Rich Gang single Lifestyle, in which Thug’s hook and verses are pretty much indecipherable to most human ears. Yet it is this very unintelligibility which makes it fun to listen to.
Over the few years, there has definitely been a rise of similar rappers. When Desiigner’s Panda dropped, it was played everywhere. And by everywhere, I’m not only talking about bars and clubs – I also mean a Waitrose in Kensington, causing all the middle-class shoppers to clutch their Essentials in fear. The tune was sampled by Kanye West in Pt. 2, helping to increase Desiigner’s popularity. The recent wave now includes Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, 21 Savage and, of course, the serial ad-libbing trio known as Migos. They’ve revealed on a few occasions that they do not actually write their own lyrics and nearly all of the songs are freestyled. It’s crazy to think that lines like ‘Still be playin’ with pots and pans, call me Quavo Ratatouille,’ weren’t produced after some thoughtful creative writing exercises.
other similar artists within the scope of this genre are in high demand, and will surely continue making music for a while
The success that these rappers have had so far has been immense. Culture, Migos’ debut album, peaked at number 1 on the US Billboard Charts, with Bad and Boujee going Platinum in the US and second single T-Shirt achieving Gold status. They’ve been featured in a wave of singles released in 2017, including Calvin Harris’s Slide and Katy Perry’s perfectly manufactured pop mess, Bon Appétit. The SNL performance may have been a complete car-crash, but these very same performances on prime-time US television have helped cement Migos’ reputation as an online and cultural phenomenon. The same goes for other similar artists within the scope of this genre – they are in high demand, and will surely continue making music for a while.
Not all of the responses have been positive though. Joe Budden criticised Lil Yachty’s musical style in April, during episode 9 of Complex Magazine’s morning show, Everyday Struggle. He states: ‘I don’t think Lil Yachty is hip-hop […] when you’re not hip-hop and you’re trying to just troll or exploit, you get things like this.’ He further claimed that Yachty is ‘ruining the culture’ and is ‘someone who should not be accepted.’ Yachty appeared on episode 13, attempting to explain his reasoning behind his debut album’s concept and artwork. Budden, however, took things to a personal level when he attacked the rapper for being…well, himself, it seems like it. ‘You can’t tell me you wake up every day happy 24/7 because to say that you are lying,’ spat a red-faced Budden at a very unfazed Yachty. Clearly, such a reaction is uncalled for.
They may be wearing chains of themselves wearing a chain, but they’re having fun with what they do
Personal attacks in hip-hop are not a rarity at all, but Budden’s attempt to put a measure on Yachty’s happiness was nonsensical. As Lil Yachty explained to Budden, when he found fame and success after ‘living in a form room with no clothes, no girls, no cars,’ he couldn’t help but be positive. Sure, he, Migos and other mumble rappers may not be ‘changing the game.’ The may be just be relying on hard-hitting trap beats, catchy hooks and big-name features. They may be wearing chains of themselves wearing a chain (as demonstrated by Quavo), but they’re having fun with what they do.
Making a statement with music, whether political or cultural, is always great – albums such as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly will surely go down in history for the message they preach. Sometimes though, it is not always about that. It may just be about making a quick song over a catchy, repetitive beat and marketing it appropriately so it sells thousands…and enjoying yourself whilst doing so. We may not have the next NWA or Tupac on our hands, but rest assured, as long as we live, we will never run out of ad-libs.
Image: G K Askew II