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Quavo Huncho is an endlessly disorienting world of half-baked ideas and uncertainty, along with a glimmer of brilliance that makes the work ring with the striking wonder of what could have been. Quavo’s long-awaited debut’s sole purpose was to answer the salient question: Could Quavo exist outside of the Migos vacuum? Could Migos survive with each member journeying into the solo fray? Quavo Huncho answers that question: No. But, dissents are never final and there are always exceptions to that rule. The journey to the nucleus of this question is thick with repulsive fats. But, patches of munificence exist in the darkness. Migos may not thrive. But, Quavo can stumble into brilliance with enough practice.
Quavo’s vocals carry a shrieking menace, wafts of dry ice chills, and easily stick to trap beats as if slicked with strong adhesive. On tracks with his contemporaries Offset and Takeoff, Quavo’s voice slices through the air like a sharpened katana, sucking the atmosphere out and drawing attention to the bridling power in the dark curtains. That voice differed from the automaton chords of Offset and the dulcet, monotone drawl of Takeoff. Together, they formed a slightly more interesting than normal troupe of trap aficionados with a penchant for Orwellian-dystopia beats to spill about dark days and darker nights under lamp poles with their hands closed. That singular, striking voice could rise above the claustrophobic worldview created by their aesthetics. It was written.
Things start off optimistic, unfortunately. Soothing hums from a chorus of grainy female specters on “BIGGEST ALLEY OOP” raise goosebumps on the nape of the neck before a heart-dropping thud signals the beginning of a powerful trap record of epic proportions. Quavo traces back to when he first dropped at 22. But, it’s nothing we haven’t already heard on a Migos record. He quickly abandons the thread for standard fair, which works. But, it’s what we’d expect, again, from something involving all three rappers. Don’t get me wrong. It slaps and it’s technically sound. But, at this point, it’s damn near exhausting. The beats lack an extra kick for the most part, managing to give your car speakers high blood pressure. But, it lacks in substance or nuance. “PASS OUT” is the proletarian cousin of “Bad and Boujee,” “GIVE IT TO EM” is the 2018 version of the Lex Luger boilerplate. Through it all, Quavo’s energy is at a near frenzied level. It’s like he’s playing a pickup game with out-of-shape yes men and, instead of matching their mediocrity, he’s putting up Jordan numbers (oh wait, he does). Each utterance of his impossibly large repertoire of ad libs and breath in, breath out flows comes with flexed arms. But, the dreariness of the surrounding project eventually wears thin.
Getting through the length of the project is an exercise of endurance that rewards you on occasion with a refreshing gust of wind. “CHAMPAGNE ROSÉ” is the kind of sui generis breath of fresh air that should be the album’s prominent face. Madonna’s eldritch vocals, Cardi B’s phlegmatic verse, and Quavo’s robotic warbling combine for one of the strongest songs by any of the Migos since “Versace” in 2013. There’s so many tinkering parts, the song sounds like a continuing Rube Goldberg machine. “CHAMPAGNE ROSÉ” plays on the album around the halfway mark, which sets the expectations for the second half even higher. Sadly, for the most part, nothing reaches the heights of it.
Of the features on Quavo Huncho, Takeoff’s appearance on “KEEP THAT SHIT” is the worst. Not because it’s technically bad, it’s just boring. Quavo tries his best to escape the beat’s wonted atmosphere. But, as he spins his hummed melodies and an out-of-the-ordinary verse style, Takeoff comes in on the second half and feeds the listener a tablespoon of fresh NyQuil. Right after the song, comes “FUCK 12” with a slightly more adventurous plugin from Offset. The song moves at a snail’s pace, hiding in the bushes at the darkest hour of night. Offset is as straightforward as Takeoff. But, Quavo feels slightly more at home with his cousin. The way that the songs are sequenced feels as if Quavo wanted to divide his contemporaries, so that the audience can discern who’s the stronger of the two in terms of lyricism and creativity. Judging by what occurs, the edge would go to Offset. It still doesn’t make the prospect of receiving two more singular Migos albums any more exciting.
Drake’s appearance on “FLIP THE SWITCH” is billed as the album’s saving grace. But, Quavo’s abysmal attempt at Juvenile’s “Ha” flow makes the song dead on arrival. The pair tries its hand at rekindling the fire of “Walk It Talk It” or “Versace” before it. However, it doesn’t translate successfully, largely because by this third time, it’s just proven that Drake’s magic can’t excuse the lifelessness of the surrounding noise. Even when Drake tries to match Quavo’s nonchalance, the prickliness of his flows makes Quavo’s “Ha” flow look even worse. Similarly, 21 Savage’s feature on “PASS OUT” channels what real emotional emptiness looks like, rendering Quavo’s boilerplate delivery as emptiness born out of a lack of creativity. It’s exhausting, annoying, and the kind of vacuity that brings about headaches when thought about too much.
There’s another bright spot that comes from Quavo finally demanding to be entered into rap’s conversation. “HUNCHO DREAMS” is a response to Nicki Minaj’s “Barbie Dreams” that inquires about Minaj’s jealousy to the backdrop of Drake’s “In My Feelings” chorus. It’s one of the only times that Quavo sounds inspired, intelligent, and curious throughout the course of the album.
It would be remiss to not mention that Quavo tries to step outside of the box. “GO ALL THE WAY” sounds like a rejected fetus of pop radio, bright and forgettable bubbly that make it more annoying than digestible. “SWING” with Normani and Davido features a tinge of international air and a push for an even more mainstream variation of what Quavo has going now. To some extent, the track’s guests upstage Quavo and create a smooth atmosphere for clubfloor dancing that he wouldn’t be able to do by himself. But, it’s immediately forgettable, largely because Quavo feels outside of his element, awkwardly muttering his auto-tuned bridge without any conviction. “LOST” with Kid Cudi feels disjointed, as both artists struggle to compromise in the artistic center. All of these songs are delivered on the backend of the tracklist, too, seemingly as an afterthought with the more straightforward Migos sound at the beginning.
Quavo Huncho couldn’t just use some polish, it would also benefit from a dramatic overhaul. The aesthetic’s unfinished. But, the ideas are there. They’re just mixed up and executed half-heartedly. If Migos plans to further test the waters, the group needs to fully realize the extent of its artistic merit and be willing to embrace the kooky, while abandoning the tried and true. It starts with Quavo. Trimming Quavo Huncho by its front half would create an album that’s more in line with Quavo’s inherent weirdness… even if it’s imperfect. But, instead, we’re stuck with an album that has half its body in the past and a foot toward the future. Quavo’s got it. But, he should ask the legendary “chief” if this is, indeed, it.
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