Yung Rich Nation might be Migos’ first album but it’s hardly a debut. After a slew of mixtapes and hits including ‘Versace’ and ‘Fight Night’, YRN isn’t the work of a trio on the come-up; it’s a consolidation of power, and they’re already invested in retelling their history.
Quavo open the album asking, “You remember that shit we did way way way back in the day?”, and he closes it with dreams of his legacy; “I just wanted to be recognised”. In the song ‘Memoirs’ we hear tales of buying a first car, getting involved in shootouts, robbing houses, and getting high for the first time. Takeoff channels the master storyteller Slick Rick on ‘Highway 85’, and on ‘Migos Origin’, Quavo historicises their own distinctive flow: “You want the origin of the flow, you better shut the fuck up / And listen up, to what the Migos bout to cook up.”
Not only do they literally divulge their history in a lyrical sense, but YRN is an effective sonic summary of their career to date. The Migos flow is a constant presence, and there are bangers in the mould of those that made them so conducive to Vine (“Dab Daddy, ‘One Time’, ‘Pipe It Up’, ‘Trap Funk’) plus a feature from fellow Atlanta hero Young Thug (‘Cocaina’).
This more reflective direction from Migos is the obvious reaction to one of rap culture’s greatest tropes; the struggle to remain relevant once successful. Migos are signed to 300 Entertainment and the No Label era is evidently over, so their obvious challenge is developing a new narrative. They relish the opportunity—the crown is theirs, as they declare on ‘Spray the Champagne’, and in-between the nostalgia are entertaining moments of success. Takeoff jokes about turning foreign girls into American citizens, Offset boasts about his Louis Vuitton sneakers, and a nonchalant Quavo seduces committed women in his Bentley
There are few true lowlights on the album, but nothing with an energy that quite matches the wild hooks and prolific ad-libs in their mixtapes’ best work. Some songs come close—’Just For Tonight’ has all the ingredients with a Chris Brown hook and knocking drums but occupies a weird space between club anthem and dark sex ballad, and while ‘Gangsta Rap’ has an unreal low end, the hook and succinct verses feel unfinished. Nevertheless, for a fifteen-track album the album is admirably consistent, if not their best work.