Junk Mail: Migos 'Yung Rich Nation' Album Review
Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the workday. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Yasmin Merchant, Ryan Middleton and Armon Sadler chat about Migos' new album, Yung Rich Nation.
Ryan Middleton: You guys awake yet? If not, Migos are here to turn things up. The Atlanta rap trio have had a tumultuous past few months. After being arrested on April 18 on drug and weapon charges, the group had to delay the release of their debut major label album Yung Rich Nation with Offset still in jail. However, the momentum behind the LP has been unstoppable.
With this album, Migos know what has worked for them in the past, but have upped their game in terms of storytelling and punch lines. The production from the likes of Honorable C.N.O.T.E., Deko, Murda Beatz, Zaytoven and others is on another level.
What are some of your initial thoughts?
Armon Sadler: I got exactly what I was looking for with this album. Migos makes the hype, party music with the cool beats and lyrics adorned with drugs, chains, sexcapades, and the words "yung," "rich,'" and the N-Word. What surprised me was the more mellow tracks that were also on the album. I think Migos was looking to make a good first album here while also showing they aren't one-dimensional. I'd say it was a job well done.
Yasmin Merchant: The only exposure I had to Migos was "Hannah Montana" and "Versace," so I too was surprised by the mellow tracks on the album. They did not step too far out of their comfort zone, but they did make an effort to make it well rounded. I think they did a good job of pleasing their fans while also trying something new.
Carolyn Menyes: I'm coming into Yung Rich Nation much like Yasmin. I only heard those two repetitive as hell tracks, and they got frequent play around my apartment when my boo thang wanted to annoy me. So, I walked into this Junk Mail sort of dreading listening to Migos repeatedly for a few days.
In the end, I think that the trio was able to sort of curb the more irritating part of their sounds for this, their major label debut. With a little help from guest artist Chris Brown and their producers, Migos actually found some melody on Yung Rich Nation, which I appreciate.
RM: I agree they did leave behind more of the repetitive tracks like "Versace" at the door that serve best as singles, but would be hard to weave into the fabric of an album.
The album is true to their Atlanta roots with plenty of 808s and rolling hi-hats and in between that trapped out sound, they do manage to create some melody with their top of the line ATL producers. Tracks like "Trap Funk" and "Just For Tonight" show that they can work with beats that have a few more elements than just a simplistic trap beat and indicates artistic growth and extra case put into this project versus some of the lackluster singles we have heard over the past year they have put out for other mixtapes.
What are some highlights for you guys?
AS: One highlight for me would have to be the seemingly strategic choice of features. First off, only 2 of the 15 songs on the album have features. However, the two that Migos chose couldn't really get any better. Chris Brown is well established in the music industry, and Young Thug is quickly up and coming, despite all of the Birdman-Weezy drama.
Only having 2 features allowed for Migos to show their talents as a group on their own. And I would say they did a good job. "One Time," "Playa Playa," and "Dab Daddy" all stand out to me a well put-together tracks. I really get the sense they put a lot of time into this project and sought to change the way they are viewed in the music industry by creating more than just catchy, repetitive tracks.
YM: The highlights for me were tracks "Memoirs," "Highway 85" and "Gangsta Rap." I feel like they have really stepped it up with their lyrics; these songs actually told a story in my opinion instead of focusing on a beat and repetition. I also appreciated the songs that had the more classic gangsta rap style; I just wish they did more of it.
CM: I agree with your point, Armon. Sometimes on rap debut albums, it feels like people just pull in all of their contacts for guest spots for added credibility or press or promotion opportunities. But, Migos held back, continuing and attempting to prove their own rap prowess. It also helped Migos keep hard in their rap roots and not move too much into a radio-friendly sound that would alienate those longtime fans.
I'm not a huge fan of Brown's, but he can be a solid guest, which he proved on "Just for Tonight." That song seemed to have the most crossover potential as a major urban radio hit. I can feel it coming on for the fall. Young Thug's "Cocaina" also had a good balance, but that song was a little too intense for me.
I am always down for a big ol' ratchet jam. I love Future's "Same Damn Time" and the Sage the Gemini classic "Gas Pedal," but nothing on this album really clicked for me. Maybe it was just listening to 15 trap jams in a row instead of one isolated track, but nothing was really a major rap gem for me. The closest thing would be the opening track "Memoirs." It has some MAJOR potential but I needed the volume to be pumped up about 100 times more than it was. If they really dropped into the chorus instead of sort of moving into it seamlessly, I could bump to it for months to come.
Any major misses here?
RM: Yeah the album doesn't really need many features simply because Quavo, Takeoff and Offset all need to rap their own verses and once that happens you have three minutes. They are good at using just enough auto-tune to not overwhelm, but it is noticeable for the hooks. I could have seen maybe another hook maker like a Ne-Yo or even a female singer, but more rappers would have largely unnecessary. That is why you generally don't see them as a trio featured on other songs because it would be so long.
I agree "Just For Tonight" has the best chance to be the radio hit that the duo will need to take this album from lighting the streets on fire to burning up radios all over the country.
I think they left out those major trap anthems on purpose to try and create a full body of work. It is risky in terms of singles sales, but for a more cohesive project, it works better. There might be some fire on the way soon like "Fight Night" soon.
Surprisingly, for me there weren't any tracks that were total flops, but there was some songs that were pretty forgettable and don't have the same replay value. If there were some tracks that didn't hit, tunes like "Migos Origin" and "What A Feeling" feel the most average and the most safe -- either not the most trapped out, don't tell a compelling story or the softer side of the trio.
AS: Yeah I definitely don't see any songs of the year coming from this album. Not to say that makes the album worse, but none of the songs really have the ability to stand alone as a hit.
As Ryan said, it is a very cohesive project and I like it that way. I feel like it's a lot easier to put out great singles and mixtapes but eventually fans are going to look to see what you can do on an album, which can really make or break your career. I think they'll be pleasantly surprised to see Migos come up with a full body of work like this.
It's also good that they kind of went a different route than the normal trap music, as Future pretty much has that on lock right now with Dirty Sprite 2 and everything else he's been putting out as of late.
YM: I actually didn't care for the song with Chris Brown; to me it killed the momentum of the album, plus I'm also not a fan of Brown in general so I may be biased. The collaboration sounded a little forced and unnatural to me. While I didn't particularly hate any other song, I agree that I found a lot of the songs to be rather forgettable.
When I was listening I felt like many of them ran together and I couldn't really tell the difference between some. In my opinion, the album is a good effort but too safe. I feel like they tried to take risks and expand their style but didn't go quite far enough.
CM: Nothing really stuck out to me as particularly bad. I mean, if I'm being honest, Migos is just about the farthest away that you can get from what I listen to in my own spare time. So this whole album wasn't the most pleasurable personal experience. It just kind of came and went again and again. I've listened to Yung Rich Nation like five times now and I still can't really pull out individual tracks, beyond the Brown feature. Love it or hate it for this, but it's the lone song that really sticks out. I think that's a good thing, but for you Yasmin, I can see how it would take you out of the flow.
Maybe the lack of total ratchet trap jams is a good thing for Migos -- they can hold things like "Hannah Montana" off for singles and then put together something more mature and cohesive as a studio album. It's not a bad approach, especially if you're not overly concerned about record sales.
RM: I am proud we held off this long to make the comparison to Dirty Sprite 2. We are seeing a major resurgence of trap hip-hop right now after its initial push in the early 2000s by the likes of T.I. and Jeezy. Rappers like French Montana, Future, 2 Chainz and now, Migos are all making the jump from niche, hip-hop acts to mainstream artists as pop brings them into the fold and becomes more accepting of their fire (insert fire emojis) tracks.
That being said the comparison isn't unfair as they both came out in July and have been well received though the #futurehive is a bit more fanatical then the fans of Migos. Migos may have not have created the magnum opus for trap music that Future did but Yung Rich Nation could be a more cohesive body of work from start to finish.
AS: Yup, while Migos may not ever receive recognition as being leaders of said resurgence, they're definitely serving as a contributor. I could see this album opening doors for them to land some bigger features and allies in the music industry, though as Ryan said with three of them needing to spit, not much room is left for features. It'll be interesting to see if the three of them stick together as they continue on in their careers.
I feel like the album may not get all of the recognition it deserves, having dropped around this Drake-Meek Mill beef that kind of came out of nowhere but was hard to not pay attention to. So much so, that it was hard to give attention to anything else. It's interesting because Migos has had tracks with those artists, and now their album could potentially be outshined by conflicts between the two. I guess it'll just show them they still have some ways to go before their projects can demand all eyes on them. (Note the Meek-Nicki reference there)
YM: That's why I liked the lyrics of "Gangsta Rap," it addresses the lack of appreciation and recognition Migos has gotten. This album is a lot more focused than their previous stuff and they're clearly trying to branch out. I'm not sure Migos will ever get too mainstream or land bigger features because they seem like they want to keep as much creative control as possible - once you get bigger names involved you get all their people involved and I don't think they'd want that around.
CM: True. To me, it's a little crazy to think of YRN as a debut album because I feel like Migos has been in the world for so long now. However, I guess that's just how these things work these days. In the midst of all the feature tracks, this album is a place for Migos, and it feels like it's just them, unfiltered. Whether or not you like it (I don't really), that's all you can really ask for.
RM: Turn up music isn't a genre that always lends itself to the more thoughtful and complex format that is an album, but Migos with their debut effort have managed to bring the trap to a full 15-track album, without going overboard. It was a little safe, but staying in their lane ensured that they didn't alienate fans, while also hinting at what the trio could do when they started to explore some different sides of their creativity.
I look forward to seeing how they fare in upcoming singles and if the album has any commercial success.
AS: Yup I wasn't blown away by the album but I didn't hate it either. I like Migos' music and I like what they have accomplished thus far in their careers. As I said before, it was a tough time to have dropped an album but they couldn't anticipate Future blowing up the way he has and Drake-Meek Mill's quarrel.
"Just For Tonight" will serve as the album's star track and will probably be most talked about, but for those who do take the time out to listen to the entire project, they'll see that Migos has laid a solid foundation upon which they can build and hopefully improve. Not bad for their first album, though.
YM: This album is a little safe but it is full off witty lyrics and is tons of fun. I am not sure this will be what establishes Migos into the mainstream rap world, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. I think we may need to wait a little bit to see how people react to it, because it was eclipsed by other things that were going on.
CM: It was interesting to hear an extended Migos beyond "Versace" or "Hannah Montana." For their debut effort, I think these guys pulled off something of mediocrity. It's not a bad album per se, but there was nothing incredibly groundbreaking or interesting here. It was all just one beat after another and one rap verse after another.
Migos clearly has raw talent, so it will be interesting to see how they keep developing. I'm going to shelf YRN for now, but I'm open to seeing where they go for album No. 2.
Purchase the album on iTunes.