Once again, a rapper has lost his life, senselessly and far too soon. Early Tuesday morning, 28-year-old Kirsnick Khari Ball, better known as Takeoff of Atlanta rap trio Migos, was killed in a Houston bowling alley by gunfire that erupted while he was throwing dice with a band that included his uncle and musical collaborator Quavo. There are no suspected attackers or other deaths on record, although two other people were injured and taken to hospital, and gruesome images of the aftermath have been circulating on social media. The shocking murder, another tragedy in a years-long string of rap deaths, marks the untimely end of a monumental artistic legacy that, it’s safe to say, helped reshape the sound of popular music.
If you paid attention to music in the mid-2010s, you’ll remember the ubiquity of the Migos and their signature sound. The rap group, made up of three family members from suburban Atlanta, exploded in 2013 and became an endless source of regional slang (“Nawf” and “bando”, among others), dances, ‘ad-libs, flows and hits that followed parties, fan videos and band hype sessions. Do you remember dabbing? Look at theirs. Do you want to repeat the name Hannah Montana at least twice, preferably three times, every time you remember the Disney show? Thank them. Do you remember the falls whenever you see raindrops? There is a reason for this. Do you walk as you talk while imagining yourself on the train of souls Position? You had the idea.
The Migos, consisting of Quavious “Quavo” Keyate Marshall, his cousin Kiari “Offset” Kendrell Cephus and his nephew Takeoff, originally reunited in 2008, but they didn’t break through until the release of their third mixtape, RNJin June 2013. This tape had earned them a powerful Drake fan following, who added his own verse to a remix of the first single, “Versace”, and released it during the rollout of his highly anticipated Nothing was the same. This co-sign catapulted the trio to virality — tens of millions of YouTube hits, their first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, even a lip-sync video of teenage Justin Bieber. The group had already attracted attention in their hometown: “Versace” was produced by local legend and famous Gucci Mane collaborator, Zaytoven. But now they were going national as rap fans across the country turned to Atlanta.
Their rise was partly a story of the right trio at the right time. During the 90s and especially the 2000s, ATL rappers like Gucci, the Dungeon Family, Ludacris, Young Jeezy, TI, Waka Flocka Flame and Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz made it clear that the South had something to say. . The burgeoning trap music genre had rocked the foundations of both the East Coast and the West, with its “slamming hi-hats”, self-tuned vocals, repeated ad-libbed interjections and tiny electric horns and keys. The sound was both a maximalist, energetic celebration of life and an unforgiving illustration of the trenches of the streets, all carefully calibrated to blast through strip club speakers and bass-heavy car stereos. The genre has also been further shaped by the feel and sounds rapped styles than the words themselves. And, just as their rap ancestors found ways to reuse turntables and drum machines to spread their songs and stories, Atlanta’s visionary producers – the aforementioned Zaytoven, Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, Mike Will Made – It and the 808 Mafia – designed sets with digital percussion and software like Fruity Loops. On these beats, the generation of Atlanta MCs of the 2010s carved their own remarkable niches: the codeine-infused pain of Future, the indecipherable ecstasy of Young Thug, the copy-paste-influenced collages of Travis Scott. , the resonant baritone of Rich Homie Quan, the quiet menace of 21 Savage.
The Migos were inspired by the same sonic markers as their up-and-coming peers, but they offered something a little different: an electrifying and rhythmically deft interweaving of three singular voices. These amigos were a mischievous and fun-loving team of youngsters, dripping in jewelry and confidence. They weren’t afraid to be clumsy because they knew you wouldn’t dare play with them. They were grateful to God but did not hesitate to show themselves. With one hand they waved a finger at the cops, while with the other they flaunted the power of their dope-cooking wrists to move mountains. They repeated chosen words and phrases over and over, matching their syllables and accents to the underlying drumming network and forcing you to bob your head like Jay-Z. Their “Migos flow,” which almost every rapper replicated at some point, harkens back to the historic sounds of the streets of Lesotho; while they were far from the first rappers to use this triplet-heavy beat, their near-resolute devotion to it caught fire. To top it off, they had a magnetic public presence: the smiles, the outfits, the banter thrown. This is what extended them to cultural influencers as a whole; fans facetiously (and sometimes seriously) called them bigger and better than the Beatles.
The band rode this wave of success for years, culminating in studio albums (Rich Yung Nationthe Culture trilogy), big-budget collaborations (Calvin Harris, Cardi B) and hit after hit (“Fight Night”, “T-Shirt”, “Stir Fry”). Yet as their surge peaked with 2018’s too long run Cultivation II, all three members explored serious solo careers, which amplified the strange group dynamic that had existed throughout. Quavo, a must-have feature for friends like Lil Yachty and DJ Khaled, was Justin Timberlake clearly ready for the band’s solo, and Offset’s personal life (especially his on-and-off relationship with wife Cardi B) tended to overshadow his own. exits. . Softer take-off has never had the same level of importance. Its verses were often the last on a given Migos track, and it had the fewest ad-libs or choruses. Notably, he didn’t have a verse on “Bad and Boujee,” which became the band’s biggest single of 2017 after a surge of viral fan-made videos propelled it to No. 1 on the Hot 100. (It would lead to the trio’s infamous spat with DJ Akademiks, who asked Takeoff, his neck draped in diamonds and gold chains, why he “gave up” the song, receiving an immortal response: “I don’t. haven’t given up on ‘Bad and Boujee’. it sounds like Did I forget ‘Bad and Boujee’? “)
Takeoff’s lack of momentum was sometimes a source of frustration for Migos fans, many of whom agreed he was perhaps the best rapper of the three. (Quavo himself has admitted this.) His raspy, deep voice didn’t carry or project the way Quavo and Offset did, but he quietly wrote some of the band’s liveliest and most hilarious lyrics, like the one about stacking his money like Pringles. . But seriously, just take a moment to browse through some of the hits. From “Gucci on My”: “Wrist flooded, I loaded up the Breitling / Now I can’t even see the clock.” Or from “Brown Paper Bag”: “20K right next to the booth/ Wrapped in a brown paper bag/ That wasn’t part of the plan/ Take the tape out of the camera/ No proof of who I am.” Or a track from Takeoff’s only solo project, 2018 The last rocket“I remember throwing all the drugs in the dresser/Stashing the job where you’d never know/Canine can’t even find it.”
Fame eluded Takeoff as the trio appeared to go their separate ways. Migos’ Cultivation III was delayed several times and arrived in 2021, two years later than expected. In May 2022, Quavo and Takeoff announced that they would be releasing a joint project as Unc & Phew, without Offset’s involvement. The latter unfollowed the two on social media around the same time, fueling rumors that the band had finally split up. The duo released their full collaboration last month to mostly positive reviews, but none of the songs had as wide a reach as they once could have. Meanwhile, the Southern rap scene they helped ignite is increasingly troubled: Young Thug and his Young Slime Life crew face a serious criminal lawsuit, and Offset is suing Quality Control, the label that so successful at the Migos. Meanwhile, countless Southern rappers have been killed over the past few years: Young Dolph, Young Greatness, Bankroll Fresh, MO3, and more. Takeoff’s sudden death now spells the undeniable end of the Migos, much to the sadness of fans who hoped they would one day reunite. It’s the tragic end of an era that was never meant to end like this, the loss of someone fully aware of what he had achieved and all the potential he still had. As Takeoff raps with his uncle on their last album together: “Why question the shit that I did?/ You know I had visions of that shit since I was a kid/ I rated it the prize and I was blessed and look what God did.”