There’s a weird, obsessive fandom surrounding Takeoff. Of the three Migos, he’s the quietest, and occupies the least amount of tabloid real estate. For the rap hipster, Takeoff is Big L. Tweets such as this and this signal a widespread belief that Takeoff is really just misunderstood. He doesn’t bring the shenanigans, he just brings bars that are somehow different than his two peers. Those subpar features and conclusory verses on Migos’ songs don’t tell the whole story. He’s so much more than that. The Last Rocket was supposed to be his solo album and the opus of music coming from Migos’ camp. Quavo’s album struck out, and the world has just about had its fill of Offset. The Last Rocket makes a scary case for there actually not being that much depth to Migos altogether, since their most mysterious member truly has nothing important to say.
Quavo has the autotune, Offset has the slightly tongue-in-cheek bars, Takeoff has neither. His rhymes are straight-faced, lacking surprise, relying on the consistency of the flow to mask his lyrical shortcomings. In short spurts it works, largely due to being a guest appearance. But when given a whole song, it’s really apparent that there’s not that much beneath his hood. The very essence of the album is haunted by this belief, with the cover for The Last Rocket, and even the title, hinting at some deep, introspective music about innermost turmoil and the finality of the pursuit for success. It’s safe to say that there’s nothing here close to that. “Martian” opens the album and attempts to add an overly dramatic 1950s-era rocket launch, seemingly indicating that something majestic this way comes. But it fizzles out nearly immediately once he begins rapping. “I’m on, he on, we on, she on (We on)/ Whippin’ the pot and I’m breakin’ the wrist (Break)” sounds so anticlimactic that you’ll halfway want to run it back to make sure that you didn’t miss anything. It feels like the beginning of an elaborate hoax that’ll reveal itself with time.
But alas, things seldom get better from there. There’s no immediacy to Takeoff’s rhymes or delivery, seemingly no reason for the project existing at all, perhaps besides Quality Control saying “Here, you have a solo album, now stop bothering us.” “None to Me” features a near meaningless five second intro that says nothing important. When the actual rapping starts, Takeoff sounds more uninspired than usual. The end result is a song about how meaningless money is to him, yet a majority of his raps are about the material possessions that he gleans from his money. It’s content and its elementary style make it sound like a throwaway from Migos’ less-polished days of No Label II in 2014. The lead single, “Last Memory,” is as stale as countertop bread, with a slightly weirder than normal beat, but mundane vocals that wouldn’t stimulate you even if they came with a defibrillator. Time and time again, the yawns come as the songs themselves refrain from true brilliance.
One area where The Last Rocket does shine in comparison to Migos’ and Quavo’s solo efforts is that the beat selection reaches for weird more than it plays it safe. Aside from the creepiness of “The Last Rocket,” the Quavo-assisted “She Gon Wink” manages to make weird videogame synths sound sexy. While his contemporaries love the sounds of trap music and all of its related drums, Takeoff prefers to keep things just strange enough to make the listener tip their shades. “Lead the Way,” at the end of the day sounds like luxurious trap, but as the beat spins its web, the span of its uniqueness makes it one of the more interesting productions on the album. Migos have never really been known for having brilliant beats, unless they get them from Pharrell (“Stir Fry”), but Takeoff’s selection lets the listener know that Migos’ lack of creative flair in this department isn’t necessarily his fault.
The album’s centerpiece comes in the form of the glorious “Infatuation,” a synth-pop feast of galaxy sounds that define Afrofuturism without explicitly mentioning it. A mystery artist named Dayytona Fox provides the standout vocals on the track, creating a virtuous playground of young love that warms the heart. Fox’s vocals are so smooth, yet so raw. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between his heartwarming singing and Takeoff’s notorious deadpan. The play between the two makes the rapper’s rhymes come across as more appealing, especially since they’re actually about something this time – an infatuation at a younger age, to be exact. It’s a shame that the surrounding album can’t match this level of polish because if it did, there would be a better argument for the album’s existence.
Takeoff’s dull delivery, uninspired bars, and mostly uniform beats make what could have been the album that fueled the fire of diehard fans instead a body of work that confirms the critical consensus. It’s not just that The Last Rocket is boring, it’s that Quavo Huncho is as well. Offset’s soon-coming solo album will most likely be boring as well. Migos, at large, are growing boring. The world has extrapolated all of the groups most iconic moments and creative choices, now all that remains is three guys doing their best to repackage what they’ve already given to ensure continued interest. The Last Rocket is a scary indicator that either Takeoff is scared to reinvent the wheel so he’s trying it in small doses, or there really isn’t any stone left unturned for him and Migos on the whole. There are hints of brilliance here that if expanded upon, showcase that there’s some hope for Migos yet. But Takeoff’s latest is more yawn-inducing than mesmerizing on all fronts; in rap, that’s like signing a death warrant on your career. And this is a debut solo album, for Christ’s sake. It looks like that rocket is lost in the atmosphere; let’s just hope it doesn’t come crashing back down.