Something about Quavo has always made him stand out above his Migos brethren — his striking look, versatile voice, and nonchalant attitude arguably make him more distinctive than Offset or Takeoff. This natural star quality, combined with the fact that he handles the majority of the group’s production, has only added to the notion that he’s the most invaluable member of the crew, and that a successful solo career was a mere formality. Yet QUAVO HUNCHO isn’t the moment in which Quavo triumphantly stands on his own two feet. This disjointed, uninspired solo debut makes you reevaluate whether he really is that much better than his counterparts.
Things start off brilliantly with the head nodding drums of “Biggest Alley Oop.” It brings out the very best in Quavo, who pokes fun at the fact there’s no longer three microphones in the booth. But this early promise is quickly wiped out – the majority of the songs that follow are instantly forgettable.
On “Huncho Dreams,” Quavo flirts with Nicki Minaj, asking her to “bounce that ass” via cringe-worthy lyrics that lack the lothario wit someone like, say, Drake possesses. Quavo’s alarmingly simplistic pen game is most exposed on filler such as “How Bout That” and “Shine” – the latter including lines like “She can pull a lot of strings like a violin” and “make her whip over the stove / no lasagne,” which read like bars from a lobotomized Big Sean. Sure, people don’t necessarily listen to Quavo for intricate lyricism, but his lack of bars is more exposed than usual without Takeoff and Offset backing him up with playful harmonies when things threaten to sag.
The problem with QUAVO HUNCHO isn’t the beats – which are dazzling, spaced out trap creations – but Quavo himself. This should have been an opportunity for him to show more of his personality and individuality, yet all we really hear is the same tired references to drugs, fast women, and stacking dollar bills. Many of the ideas feel half-baked; “Fuck 12” starts off with a passionate Malcolm X speech about black pride and racial identity, only to descend into a completely vacant Quavo verse, where he spits: “Up really early, servin, servin, servin / fuck that bitch / she a virgin / smash!”
Quavo’s lyricism feels lazy, or it feels like someone who has a comfort zone and is terrified of leaving it. He typically rhymes one syllable words together, repeating them over and over via comedic ad libs. Whenever a verse threatens to venture somewhere remotely personal or political (as on the Kid Cudi-featuring “Lost”), it’s as if an engineer is holding up a cardboard sign in the studio that reads ‘DON’T MESS WITH THE MIGOS FORMULA,’ abruptly bringing the subject matter back to bars about stunting. He sacrifices substance for meme-friendly catchiness, which makes the album’s many guests feel like a welcome distraction.
The album’s best moment is perhaps its most unexpected; when Madonna and Cardi B both show up on “Champagne Rosé.” Madonna’s hypnotic hook, Cardi’s playful verse (“I get pissed off, you get pissed on!”) and the intoxicating beat built around an atmospheric flute sample each combine to make this an instant bop. Darker, more contemplative songs such as the Travis Scott-featuring “Rerun” and the aforementioned “Lost” will also make you reach for the replay button. It’s just a shame that the best thing about these tracks isn’t Quavo.
Perhaps his stand out verse comes on “Big Bro.” The beat’s reflective keys allow Quavo to boldly rap about the drug-induced death of Lil Peep, spitting “Thinking you popping Xanax bars but it’s fentanyl/ think you’re living life like rock stars, but you dead now.” These lyrics are a much-needed piece of sobering commentary. Meanwhile, Quavo’s trademark playfulness is readily apparent on “Lamb Talk,” with silly bars such as “You got a big mouth like a gator talkin” reminding us why we fell in love with him in the first place. However, these moments of inspiration are rare, making it abundantly clear he doesn’t yet possess the personality to hold down a full length album by himself.
The 19-song tracklist feels bloated, with trashy pop songs such as “Swing” and “Go All the Way” sounding like obvious attempts at radio spins via cheap beats a ring tone rapper might have rocked back in 2004. The reality could be that we’re starting to suffer from Migos fatigue; the group’s reliance on trap beats and repetitive, catchy, hooks is starting to feel more and more one note. QUAVO HUNCHO serves as a warning that the group must start to show more development in their sound or risk alienating rap fans, who might be getting bored with their sole formula.
People like to joke that the Migos are the new Beatles, but QUAVO HUNCHO isn’t a classic breakaway solo effort in the vein of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, Paul McCartney’s Ram or George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass… it’s more like one of Ringo’s.