Quavo’s solo debut was a star-studded affair.
It’s finally here. After years are incessant speculation, tireless online debates and repeated attempts at prematurely splitting up the group, we finally have our first solo album from Migos. As expected, it’s from Quavo, the group’s oldest member and defacto leader. Over the years, all members have freelanced their talents and secured high-profile guest spots, but they’ve always circled back in order to capitalize on any increased visibility as a group. This culminated last year when both Quavo and Offset embarked on side projects with Travis Scott and 21 Savage respectively, only to return to Takeoff and release Culture 2. Now, after the impact Migos have collectively made on the industry, it’s only fitting that the group’s elder statesman takes the first official stab at establishing a solo career.
QUAVO HUNCHO is a star-studded affair, but not every feature leaves a lasting impression: Drake’s contributions to the Wheezy-produced “FLIP THE SWITCH” is one of his least engaging verses in an otherwise consistently impressive year; Saweetie is an unnecessary afterthought on the following track, “GIVE IT TO EM”; Takeoff’s verse on “KEEP THAT S**T” is disappointingly short; in stark contrast, Travis does too much on “RERUN”; and, perhaps most surprisingly, Kid Cudi, the originator, apes Quavo and Travis’ style instead of brandishing his own trademark flow.
But when you’re as ambitious as Quavo, you can afford to fumble some of the bigger moments. With a dozen guests on this packed debut, there are still many bright spots worth highlighting. Here are our top 5 features from QUAVO HUNCHO.
5. Madonna & Cardi B
“CHAMPAGNE ROSÉ” is one of the most interesting songs on HUNCHO. Cardi B’s verse is brief yet effective, sending subs at Nicki Minaj, shouting out LeBron James and establishing her dominance in six swift bars. But it’s Madonna’s intoxicating use of a vocoder-type effect that elevates the track from regular shit-talking to something more eerie and melancholic. It’s a tool she’s utilized in the past, specifically on her 2015 single “Bitch I’m Madonna” (which, coincidentally, features Nicki Minaj). After making numerous public appearances alongside Cardi B and Migos over the past year, this overdue collaboration feels like a pop Queen teaching two eager up & comers how to successfully navigate the terrain.
4. Normani & Davido
It’s a shame we didn’t get “SWING” earlier, it could have been a contender for song of the summer. While Quavo spends most of the track feeling around for a groove, taking after contemporaries like Drake, French Montana or Swae Lee in his mismatched appropriation of dancehall and afrobeat vibes, Normani and Davido’s contributions effectively carry this track across the finish line. As expected, Davido is at home on the beat, making us wish his brief, Cardi B referencing verse was at least twice as long. However, it’s the former feature, a member of Fifth Harmony (the pop group formed on The X Factor, whose former member Camila Cabello recently scored a #1 single with “Havana”), who’s sweet melodies prove to be perfect foil to Quavo’s more robotic crooning.
One of the more interesting concept tracks on the album, “F**K 12” interpolates a Malcolm X speech and makes it the backdrop for an anti-cop, pro-finer things in life banger. Offset’s verse isn’t some insightful diatribe on racial injustices, but it’s acutely aware of how he’s perceived. Forgoing any thorough breakdown of the complex history of systemic oppression in the United States, he instead opts to outline his early drug-dealing transgressions and advocates open retaliation on the police with zero remorse (while referencing Ninja Gaiden along the way). Only with the last few bars does he attempt to place it all in context:
Detective on my back, just took my money, I’m illegal
Shootin’ at the pigs, they been killin’ all our people
Young, rich, black, got my mama on my back
Daddy disappeared when my mama took him back
You shot him ’cause you thought he had a gun or he black
You better watch out for the boys when you’re black
2. 21 Savage
Remember when people thought 21 couldn’t rap? Neither do we, especially when confronted with scene-stealing, showstopping showcases such as this one. Punchline-heavy with a relentless flow, 21’s verse on “PASS OUT” is an aggressive deceleration of skill that’s not for the faint of heart. Sure, nothing is particularly clever, but the execution is flawless.
1. Lil Baby
Maybe by chance, maybe by design, QC’s latest star turns out to have not only the best feature, but arguably the best verse on the entire album. After Quavo spends the first 90 seconds of “LOSE IT” setting the pace, Lil Baby swoops in, grabs the baton, and attempts to shatter world records. WIth a rattling, off-the-cuff flow that trembles under the weight of his conviction, Baby’s verse is both playful and impassioned. He spits silly punchlines (“Lime Lamborghini sittin’ pretty, that’s Cardi/Blue Lamborghini Diablo, on offsets/Havin’ talks in the Wraith, ’bout to take off”), reconciles with his current status in the game (“Ain’t too into cameras, but they got to see me/Diamonds on my fingers, I’m a superstar”), and acknowledges his fanbase (“Made it to the charts, they know who I am/Shout out to my fans, really fuck with y’all”). In a year full of standout performances, this may very well be his best.