With ‘Bad and Boujee,’ Migos is finally having its moment
Bottles of Möet Champagne and Pátron tequila crowded a rolling cart as a stagehand carefully wheeled it into a dressing room reserved for the Atlanta hip-hop trio Migos. Twenty-five minutes later, when the stagehand returned to wheel it out, the cart was empty — save for a lonely container of cranberry juice.
The booze was used by Migos — and the many friends and associates packing the smoky space — to loosen up before an important concert last week at the Novo club in downtown Los Angeles. Fellow hip-hop stars including 2 Chainz, YG and Chance the Rapper had turned up to make appearances — crucial for creating buzz on social media as the group worked toward the release of its new album, “Culture.”
But the members of Migos — rappers Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, all in their mid 20s — were also pouring drinks to celebrate what they’d already achieved: a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Bad and Boujee.”
The catchy, hypnotic track, with slangy drug talk over a clattering trap beat, has been streamed hundreds of millions of times on YouTube and Spotify. And this month actor Donald Glover called it “the best song ever” as he accepted a Golden Globe for his role on the FX series “Atlanta” (which recently featured a cameo by Quavo).
“We came from nothing to something,” Offset raps in the song, a tidy way of describing how Migos has suddenly crashed into mainstream view.
As is often the case in hip-hop, though, this overnight success story has actually been developing for years.
Formed in 2009 in suburban Gwinnett County, Migos broke out among rap fans in 2013 with “Versace,” a nimble, quick-stepping number later remixed by Drake; after that, the group honed its sound, built around the rappers’ distinctive triplet flow, with a seemingly unending stream of mixtapes and guest spots on songs by everyone from Gucci Mane to Justin Bieber — some of which appeared even as Offset spent time in jail on drug and weapons charges.
“Culture,” Migos’ second official studio album following 2015’s “Yung Rich Nation,” offers further polish, with streamlined grooves and sing-song choruses. Yet it retains the group’s boisterous energy for a winning formula: An hour after it was released Thursday night, the album had risen to the top spot on the iTunes chart.
“It’s all about reps,” said Kevin Liles, the veteran hip-hop executive whose label, 300 Entertainment, puts out Migos’ records as part of a deal with Atlanta-based Quality Control Music. Comparing Migos to boxers in training for a championship bout, Liles said the group had put in the work — the reps in the gym — required to capitalize on the right moment when it finally arrived.
“They made themselves a seat at the table,” he said.
So why was “Bad and Boujee” the moment for Migos?
Standing the day before the Novo gig in another packed dressing room — this one at “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” where the group had been invited to perform — Quavo said the swaggering track gives listeners an appealing sense of power.
“I feel like it’s the modern-day ‘Bad,’” he said, referring to the late-’80s Michael Jackson hit. “We haven’t had that song that makes you wanna break” stuff, he added, using a stronger word, “in a long time.”
At that, Offset chimed in, pointing out that Glover, who’s called Migos “the Beatles of this generation,” had elaborated on his feelings about “Bad and Boujee” backstage at the Globes: “He said it was the best song to have sex to.”
But is wanting to have sex the same as feeling bad?
“Yeah, man!” the three replied in unison. “You can’t just be out in public having sex — you might get in trouble,” Quavo said. “That’s bad, you dig?”
To some extent, Migos can thank another Atlanta rap group, Rae Sremmurd, for helping to clear a path for “Bad and Boujee’s” ascent. Last year that duo reached No. 1 with “Black Beatles,” a similarly off-kilter tune that also rode viral streaming activity to the top.
Yet where “Black Beatles” took off largely as a result of the song’s unplanned connection to the Mannequin Challenge — you may already have forgotten that brief Internet craze — “Bad and Boujee” feels more like the hard-won product of a long hustle.
Certainly its timing, just ahead of “Culture’s” release, was more strategic than that of “Black Beatles,” which exploded as a single months after Rae Sremmurd’s “SremmLife 2” album came out (and therefore did relatively little to drive sales of the duo’s full-length).
Still, Liles insisted that album sales are just one part of what he called an act’s overall “consumption”: the various ways in which fans now interact with musical content, from paid downloads to Spotify streams to video clips shared on Instagram.
“As long as people are consuming,” he said.
The members of Migos were somewhat squishier in defining their ambitions.
Pointing to a wall at “Kimmel” hung with portraits of famous musicians including Willie Nelson and Justin Timberlake, Quavo said that was the company he hoped to keep with “Culture.”
“That’s how we going,” he said. “We going broad, bro.”
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