It’s been hard to escape the Migos over the last two years. The Atlanta trio has dropped two albums, two solo albums (courtesy of patchy offerings from Quavo and Takeoff) and appeared as guests on just about everything you’ve heard on the radio, even if it’s cringey, certified duds by Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea.
But even though the group has never been more visible in the mainstream eye, there’s a nagging sense that the public is starting to suffer from Migos overload, with the group’s over-reliance on delivering half-sung, half-rapped verses about big cars, fast women, and gigantic guns, often backed by predictable ad-libs, sounding more and more one-note. Sure, Takeoff’s solo album was interesting musically (yeah, “Infatuation” is a certified bop), but it still was grounded in the same generic Migos content, while the less we say about Quavo’s awful QUAVO HUNCHO album, well, the better.
This backdrop has meant that expectations weren’t exactly sky high for Offset’s debut solo album Father of 4, with the artist becoming more known for cringe publicity stunts to try to win back on again-off again wife Cardi B than dropping actual music over recent months. Yet, against all odds, we're happy to report that Offset has (mostly) defied these dour expectations, dropping the most mature album in the Migos catalogue and paving the way for the group to evolve artistically in the future.
As soon as you hear the violins on the opening track, it’s clear Offset is leaving his traces of toxic masculinity behind and attempting to open up to his audience. This title track sees Offset rapping about the struggles of young black males raising children, as he replaces the usual flossy raps with a touching commitment to his four kids: “I’ma keep grinding for my kids/ never gon’ let up/ I’ma put the money up for y’all/ I can’t be selfish.”
It’s immediately followed by reflective banger “How Did I Get Here?” which sees Offset celebrating the fact he didn’t end up as a statistic and impressively outshining an appearance by a typically brilliant J. Cole. These two tracks prove Offset isn’t playing around, and he shows growth as a lyricist with most of what follows too.
In particular, “Don’t Lose Me,” an apology for cheating on Cardi, backed by a lush string arrangement, soars. Offset talks frankly about trying to beat his demons of sex addiction as well as wanting to grow old with the “Bodak Yellow” star (who turns up herself later on, delivering a necessary dose of energy on “Clout” as she humorously spits: “Soon as these bitches got something to sell/ they say my name/ destiny’s child!"). “Don’t Lose Me” is a beautiful piece of self-reflection and the kind of meditative track that should finally end the debate over who is the best Migos.
Sadly, not all of Father of 4 is quite so compelling. Offset makes a lot of obvious grabs for club spins, and whenever he leans into the usual trap anthems, his vocal delivery becomes mundane to sit through. “Made Men” is full of empty boasts, sounding like a leftover from the bloated Culture II, while "Wild Wild West," which features a forgettable appearance by Gunna, just sounds lazy. Without the backing of Quavo and Takeoff, Offset quite simply isn’t as strong at making gangster rap.
Instead, Father of 4 is at its best whenever Offset breaks with the tried and tested formula for making hood anthems, replacing the conventional hi-hats for unconventional violins, and the brags about making money for apologies to the women he has wronged. "After Dark" is straight from the soul, a beautiful tribute to fallen friends and a diary entry about leaving Cardi “ashamed” and “breaking her heart.” Meanwhile, "North Star," backed by a powerful if slightly sickly appearance by Cee-Lo Brown, also sits in the realm of ambitious grown man rap, as Offset says he’s “scared to peek at the skeletons in my closet” It’s just a shame that Father of 4 isn’t consistently as heartfelt as these songs, with the record frustratingly feeling like a mix of what Offset used to be and the more mature artist he is threatening to become.
Regardless of the record’s patchy form, Offset should be commended for showing growth as a songwriter and attempting to embrace grown man rap in a way not a million miles away from JAY-Z’s 4:44. Even if the execution of Father of 4 isn’t always perfect (for example, the cover, despite its powerful concept, looks like it was made on Microsoft Clip Art), it could well prove to be the most important Migos album, marking a turning point where the group heads off in a different direction and grounds itself more in adult themes.
On Father of 4, Offset challenges Quavo and Takeoff to be more open about what’s inside their hearts, and one can only hope it’s a preview of a more introspective sound that will carry over to the group’s upcoming Culture III — even if he's done it sub-consciously, Offset has set down a marker to his fellow Migos, urging them both to grow up.