The triplet pattern that became a Migos signature wasn’t new to hip-hop: It was a fixture in Memphis rap for years, in the work of Three 6 Mafia and others, and it was part of the cadence-bending arsenal of the Cleveland sing-rap pioneers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. But Migos made the style sound fresh, less performative and more glossy. It had a hurried urgency and also the briskness of rough-and-tumble triumph.
Such is the nature of hip-hop innovation — sometimes it’s about what is said, but just as often, it’s about how it’s said. And the triplet flow that Migos popularized in the mid-2010s became a standard-bearer for the genre, setting a generation of Atlanta rap afloat.
Atlanta was already the center of hip-hop innovation when Migos arrived, but the trio was primed for streaming-era success — pulsing with youthful energy, leaning heavily on catchy choruses, collaborating widely. After the viral success of its 2016 hit “Bad and Boujee,” Migos released a pair of albums, “Culture” and “Culture II,” that each debuted at the top of the Billboard albums chart and spawned several hits, including “MotorSport,” “Stir Fry” and “Walk It Talk It.”
The prior wave of Atlanta stars like Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy captured ears with imagistic storytelling and signature vocal texture. By comparison, Migos sounded addled, anxious, pugnacious. They were untethered from earlier rap conventions. As the rest of Atlanta rap leaned toward the psychedelic — beginning with Future, then pivoting to Young Thug, and eventually the more commercially minded Gunna and Lil Baby — Migos, and Takeoff especially, held fast to its mechanistic idiosyncrasies.