Remember the first Culture? Released about one exact year before Culture II? The less droning, less tedious, less banal, less tiresome, less annoying, less bad Culture?
I remember that album, and the feeling of listening to that album, as an important moment in my life being an avid music listener. I just remember playing song after song, and thinking “I can’t believe how good this all sounds.” Not that it was the best sounding album I’ve ever heard. Probably not even among the 50 best if I had to put it out on a list. But, I just couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed that album.
I grew up a hip-hop purist because the internet essentially corrupted an impressionable mind of original thought. I divulged myself with Biggie, 2Pac, Wu-Tang, Nas. I’m looking at an Illmatic poster right now even though I can’t remember the last time I sat and listened to it. That phase was middle school, and early high school. And when I found a pallet for current hip-hop I stayed true to the values of my constructs: meaningful lyrics, wholesome production, hooks as afterthoughts. It was a bleak way of listening to music, but y’know: I didn’t know any better.
So to think in just a couple years I went from hip-hop purist to Migos adorer is kind of stunning. At least it was for me. I mean, the very notion of trap music offended all the values I had as a music listener a short time ago. I just remember sitting at my desk doing absolutely nothing; just listening to the nonsensical lyrics, and being totally captivated by how little it mattered. I hardly ever will just sit and listen to an album and do nothing else. Especially if the product isn’t relatable, or meaningful. After all what does the line “Mama told me (MAMA!) not to sell work,” really mean to me? But this was truly the first moment in my life where none of it mattered, and I was just listening to something because it sounded good.
And was it ever rewarding for it to sound so good. This was what my friends listened to. This was what my classmates listened to. It wasn’t the first time I’ve liked something popular, of course. But it just felt so cool to belong. To hear “Bad and Boujee” in the club and get a sense of invigoration, or for your friend to play it in an Uber and you ask her with a surprised smile “You fuck with Migos?”
All this is to say: it was fun to understand and appreciate this sound. Culture truly felt like a cultural event. And for the dudes who made “Versace” to accomplish something that ambitious? It was special. But seemingly like all good things in our world, it was fleeting.
Culture II epitomizes the fleeting. Once I decided to truly embrace trap music, it crammed me with unending stuff. And it’s weird, man. I can count twelve (!!) trap releases that have come out in the last year that weren’t good as a whole.
Of course, the more trap I listen to, the less I believe you can take trap as a whole. You just take out pieces of that whole, add it to a playlist and play it next time you’re connected to a speaker at a pre-party. It’s disheartening to me, as someone who loves albums. More specifically, that sense of satisfaction when you listen to an album from front to back.
And that’s something you can’t do with Culture II because it’s ONE HUNDRED. AND FUCKING. SEVEN. MINUTES. LONG.
Honestly, I haven’t even listened to the entire thing because it dragged on so long. I just picked out the songs I liked. “Stir Fry” is probably their best song, and it tricked into thinking this might be able to re-capture the feeling I got from the first Culture. But sequels are hard. Trying to re-capture something like what I described is impossible in a way. But we try and do it anyways because we’re humans. A few nights ago the Eagles beat the Patriots and it might have been the single most satisfying feeling I’ve ever felt watching sports. But I couldn’t share that feeling with the person who means the most to me, because some other feelings got in the way of it. That’s life, man. Maybe that’s what Culture II is.
But for now, it’s just another trap release. My advice: keep “Narcos” because of the latin guitar, keep “Stir Fry” because it fucking rules, keep “Too Much Jewelry” because of the flute, keep “Motorsport” for Cardi, and keep “Made Men.” That should keep you entertained until the next Culture, God forbid it ever comes.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot their label is called “Quality Control.” Ha.