Migos know how to make an entrance. The rap group breaks the humdrum lobby of the Dream Midtown by walking in — gliding in, actually — on a neon-blue Oxboard. “Ay. You that writer with a cold?” Quavo asks, balancing himself gingerly on the Segway-like scooter. Guilty as charged. Earlier, I tweeted that I was getting over a summer cold. Before we sit down to talk, Quavo squeezes a dollop of hand sanitizer into my palm while Takeoff slumps into a paisley-print chair. The group’s third member, Offset, is currently incarcerated. It’s a big week for Migos leading into their debut album, Yung Rich Nation (out July 31), and they can’t get sick.
“Migos is in the building!” Quavo declares triumphantly. “Pipe it up. Pipe it up. Right now!” The more talkative of the two here today, he’s heady after the flight from their native Atlanta. His gold-rimmed glasses offset his youthful face and match the inordinate amount of bling on his person. Takeoff, who’s wearing an incredibly large medallion chain, looks like he’s still shaking off jet lag. Yung Rich Nation just started streaming on Pandora, and both rappers are excitedly wondering how many streams they’ve accreted. So why did they go with Pandora versus, say, Tidal or Apple Music, the choice of so many other rappers? “Pandora is the first one to pop it off, I think. Pandora is the O.G.,” explains Quavo. “We’re like statistically — what — top-ten hip-hop on Pandora? We gotta show them love.”
This streaming love dates back to 2009, when Migos formed with the help of trap star Gucci Mane. It’s been a family affair from the start for the twentysomething Quavo (Quavious Marshall), Takeoff (Kirsnick Ball), and Offset (Kiari Cephus); Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle, while Offset is Quavo’s cousin. After several mixtapes, it was the relentlessly catchy “Versace,” from 2013’s Y.R.N. (Young Rich Niggas), that would prove to be their watershed moment. “Versace/Versace, Versace, Versace/Versace Versace,” they patter on the hypnotic hook. Drake hopped on the single and flung Migos from regional buzz to international fame. The official music video (which is, incidentally, Drake-free) has nearly 13 million views.
The Italian luxury house took notice. That year, Versace played “Versace” during its runway show at Milan Fashion Week. Follow-up singles “Hannah Montana” and 2014’s “Fight Night” performed strongly. Their triplet-based rhyme style became popularized as the “Migos flow,” and the group went on to collaborate with artists including Justin Bieber, A$AP Ferg, French Montana, Young Thug, and Future. Their flashy style has garnered love from rap fanboys, with some claiming that Migos are better than the Beatles. Of course, Migos fueled the joke: “They’re legends, but we’re legends too now.”
The trio doesn’t seem to have debut jitters over how Yung Rich Nation will perform commercially. “We made as much off mixtapes. Our mixtapes damn near went street-platinum. Album is just for the look. Just for the industry. We’re for the streets and for the people,” says Quavo. “We’d rather give the music out for free and go on the road and collect our money.” His manager interjects to hand him a tasty-looking egg-and-cheese sandwich on a croissant. He takes a few bites and makes a face. On the European leg of their recent tour, he says he only ate “McDonald’s” (in a faux French accent). Takeoff (who’s on the phone ordering burgers from Five Guys) is more curious whether their fans will translate commercially: “I want to look into [the first-week sales] for myself.” Quavo ponders this for a second and changes his opinion. “Album sales show your true supporters, so of course, yeah, we want to see our true supporters.”
Legal issues may be more pressing for the group at the moment. In April, Quavo and Offset were arrested on felony drug and weapons charges after a show at Georgia Southern University. In May, Offset said that he was dealing with racist law enforcement and blamed Noisey’s documentary about Atlanta, widely seen as exploitative, for his woes. Musically, his incarceration didn’t impede Young Rich Nation; his verses for the fifteen-track album had been recorded prior. The remaining members say they speak to Offset every day — Takeoff shares that sometimes he has the street dirt before they do. “We let him know what’s going on, but sometimes he tells us stuff before we even know.” They can’t share an exact release date for their brother, but say to rest assured that “Offset be home soon. Just wait on it!”
Migos perform at Highline Ballroom on July 30.