Migos gave me food for thought, thought
Whether you rock with them or aren’t a fan, there’s no way you haven’t heard their name. They have the no. 1 album in the country, they received a co-sign from Donald Glover during his Golden Globe speech and now they’ve officially spoken at an NYU class.
Migos are the culture. They are the popular culture. They are trendsetters, trap stars, fashion icons, and artists. Which is why NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music invited Migos to teach a class on culture. Ironic how before Donald Glover’s praise Migos couldn’t get on late night talk shows and now they’re being invited to speak at such a respected institution, which happens to be Glover’s Alma Mater.
The Migos pulled up fashionably late, with only two thirds of Migos present. Quavo and Takeoff gave a great discussion despite Offset’s absence. The panel was hosted by The Fader’s editor-in-chief Naomi Zeichner and featured three separate segments of discussion, including: Fashion, Pop Culture and Music. Before each segment a short video introduced Migos influence on the topic at hand. We handpicked some highlights from the class to share with y’all. Find out about unreleased emotional tracks, how the “Pick Up the Phone” collab happened, working with Gucci Mane and much more below:
The Fashion dialogue was facilitated by Vfiles founder Julie Anne Quay and their first encounter was anything but normal. Quay first met Migos backstage during the Vfiles 2015 runway. Apparently they weren’t feeling the apparel moments before they were about to walk and Quay decided to let them wear their own clothing because they looked amazing as is. She added “that is a fashion statement, that is fashion, these guys are fashion.”
Quay asked if fashion’s always been important to them or if they cultivated their look as they grew:
Quavo: “Fashion’s always been important. We always made sure we put on crazy looking clothes so we could at least look rich. We might been not rich, but we looked it”
How is cash a fashion statement and is there a duffle bag nearby full of cash right now?
Quavo: There’s a pocket nearby *pulls out thick wad of cash*
Who were your fashion icons?
Quavo: My fashion icons were Tupac, Master P, Who else Takeoff?
Takeoff: OutKast, T.I.
Quavo: Great hygiene
Graphic artist and Comedian Zack Fox hosted the pop culture segment after jokingly introducing himself as Offset. Fox’s segment was by far the most casual and he jumped right into it:
Who’ve been some of your cultural influences?
Michael Jackson, Cash Money, Outkast. Just watching MTV and BET
Naiomi Zeichner hosted the music segment, attended Migos’ Highline Ballroom show the night before and probably had the most in depth conversation out of the three formal segments.
Naomi asked when they knew they wanted to start doing music seriously:
Quavo: I was in the cafeteria one day and offset walked up on me and was like ‘bruh, that mixtape you just dropped I’m likin it! Put me in the studio bruh, let me rap with you.” He was the only one in the whole school who was rocking with that mixtape and that’s on god.
How did you learn and teach each other how to record?
Quavo: Crazy thing about it, when I started meeting artists that actually do the music they end up doing it the same way I did it. I was thinking I was improvising and doing things to make my craft easier come to find out I was doing it the same way the big leagues was doing it.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to Gucci. He started our career. He played a big role in our career and was my favorite rapper at the time when he called my phone and told us to come on up. So I feel like when he was gone I was representing for him and what he was doing.
Up next NYU student Michelle Kim and members of the audience began asking questions.
Was there any instance where you felt doubtful or unsure about making music:
Takeoff: I don’t think so any time I was feeling down it would make me want to get in the studio and make tons of music. If I got something goin’ on Im’a talk about it in a song. I’m gonna express it and let it out in a song. I wouldn’t let it get to me.
Quavo: I make the music and then I listen to it and sometimes I be like ‘should I put this out?’ or nah cause we got so many songs that we never put out and people be waiting. I put the feeling in it sometimes it’s too much feelings or too much emotions.
Is there a really emotional track we haven’t heard yet?
Quavo: Yeah there is, my mom cried, my gramma cried. I don’t want to make y’all cry.
Naiomi: When you have hundreds of songs that are soulful and sticky do you ever forget them or go back and listen to them and say ahh that’s so good?
Quavo: That always happens, but it’s about timing with the music. You don’t wanna give too much that people will keep asking what’s next.
How are you gonna stay ahead of the curve?
Quavo: Stay working. Keep working. Keep grinding. I think once you got all your stuff lined up it automatically starts falling into place. I do songs that’s why you’ll see Quavo on features. I’m just working I just go out and might just go to another artist’s studio and do five songs and just leave. That’s how I got on “Pick Up the Phone.” I just pulled up on Travis and Young Thug in the studio and they were just in there and I said I want in and I got in there and just left. You gotta keep working just working.
How do you approach mixtapes differently than you would an album and why did you decide to put out Culture as an album?
Quavo: Whether it’s a mixtape or album you gotta bring your a-game. Our first album didn’t even do good because we felt like it got too tight on us. It was our first album and we got locked down and just tried to be this person you ain’t and it didn’t work so when we went back to the drawing board and started talking the real Migos lingo so when that YRN came we took our L and it hurt, but we came back to the drawing board and brought that culture and it worked.
What’s it like working with Gucci mane? Are you gonna do something with him at the Super Bowl?
Takeoff: Guwop work quickly man. He work hard and work quick. He get in and get out.
Quavo: He work late. One time I was sleep man and he woke us up at 4 or 5 in the morning like Takeoff, Quavo get on these adlibs I need these adlibs. He hears or sees something on the song and he’s gonna want it right then and there.
Which artist outside of hip hop do you want to work with?
The radio stations in Atlanta seem ahead of the curve, how did they help or impact you?
Quavo: I got so much love for our radio stations in Atlanta so when we pull up we gotta give them something exclusive. We gotta just have that connection and they love breaking new music. New York they kinda like rough on you. We had to like build our respect for New York. That’s what I like, they real serious on the lyrics though. You gotta come in and spit right, if you don’t spit right they gonna kick you out. I like that.
Any New York rappers you wanna work with?
Quavo: Jay-Z. Bobby Shmurda, free Bobby. I like Desiigner man.
How do you feel about Drake dropping his album tonight?
Quavo: that’s real? That’s real? Ok Drake. I see why.
(Drake did not end up dropping his album last night)
Naoimi:What role have women had in promoting your music? Especially with tracks like “Bad and Bougie”
Quavo: Girls always make our music go. Men always like what the ladies like and believe it or not if a girl playing something the guy gonna get in the car and drive down the street and play the song that his girl was playing. They set the trends.
Takeoff: Girls run the world right.
To put it simply, this was a big deal. The energy was electric. Culture is determined by relevance, and no group is more musically relevant right now than Migos. Even if all we learned from the lecture was that Quavo’s feature on Travis Scott’s certified-gold single “Pick Up the Phone” happened by chance, therein lies a lesson. Quavo wasn’t just lucky, he was putting in work. His anecdote reaffirmed the moral that hard work brings positive results and that we could learn a thing or two from the Migos work ethic.
The event was presented by 300 Entertainment, NUE, NYU and Quality Control music.