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Takeoff - The Last Rocket Music Album Reviews

The solo debut from the least attention-hungry member of Migos proves what many have long suspected—he is the trio’s best rapper, with the most promising career prospects outside of the group.

If you have only casually watched the rise of Migos, Takeoff is the trio’s most anonymous member. Quavo is the most recognizable thanks to his pop instincts and constant cameos; Offset’s relationship with Cardi B has boosted his profile. But Takeoff has kept his head down. Still, the crew’s youngest, least attention-hungry member is also its most talented rapper. His abilities have been clearly visible since at least No Label II but were perhaps most obvious amid the bloat of Culture II. On songs like “Too Much Jewelry” and the original edit of “Motorsport,” he was the most assured and reliably energetic performer. In the run-up to that record, Quavo was happy to admit his nephew was the superior Migo. Offset agreed.

Takeoff’s solo debut, The Last Rocket, arrives on the heels of Quavo Huncho and just ahead of an Offset album next month. His kinfolk are correct: With a tight 12 tracks, Takeoff’s record is significantly more economical than Quavo’s, revealing more of his personality through a diverse set of strongly rapped songs. The lack of an obvious enormous single likely won’t raise his general star, but The Last Rocket helps to demystify the group by clarifying their explicit connections to Southern rap predecessors from Gucci Mane and Big K.R.I.T. to UGK. Many of the Migos’ best songs have been their biggest hits. The Last Rocket, like its creator, is most compelling at its most offbeat and introspective.

“None to Me” is the first track here to display these qualities, as Takeoff raps about his lack of interest in a mere flex. He begins with a simple boast—“Like looking at my money stacked/That’s why the whip I ain’t bought one”—but inverts it, transforming into an opportunity for reflection. “Not that I can’t get one, or not that I don’t want one/So booked, if I even got it, I wouldn’t have time to drive one,” he continues. These bars exemplify the upside of a solo record: More time to fill means more time to muse, and Takeoff is an interesting person to spend time with. He weds Migos’ slashing digressions to quirky thoughtfulness.

The most endearing and bizarre example is “Casper.” Takeoff is lyrically all over the place atop a gauzy beat from Cassius Jay and Nonstop Da Hitman. “I want to look at the stars today,” he injects with childlike wonder into a hook that would otherwise seem rote. He shouts out his grandma and requests that those he share dinner with say grace. The cosmos, his elders, an abiding religiosity: These are recurring motifs for the rapper born Kirshnik Khari Ball, and this earnestness even makes the album’s title seem like more than a cheap joke about his pseudonym.

Though he hasn’t quite developed the focus to tell full stories, Takeoff does have the most narrative skills of any of the Migos. “I Remember,” one of the more evocative songs on the album, shows signs of something greater, as he uses each verse to think back to winters trapping, summoning them with vivid details about flushing drugs down the commode or breaking new product down in his mother’s basement. The bludgeoning hook is something of a misstep, and Takeoff generally lacks refined pop instincts. Even Quavo can’t help make “She Gon Wink” stand out. “Infatuation,” which features the relatively unknown but very intriguing rap&b singer Dayytona Fox and opens sounding like a lost Toro Y Moi B-side, has its charms. But it’s also one of the few times on the record that Takeoff sounds sluggish, finally warming up when he’s almost done with his verse. At least the beats, supplied by usual suspects like DJ Durel, Murda Beatz, and members of the 808 Mafia, are always perfect, offering plenty of negative space for Takeoff to experiment.

And whoever chose the record’s lead single, “Last Memory,” did right by Takeoff, ignoring clumsy radio stabs for a song that shows the best of what he can be. Takeoff has a rare combination of skills in that he’s both versatile and unmistakable; he can switch up his flow or register and remain instantly identifiable. Through his continual willingness to reveal himself, Takeoff grants depth to the Migos’ constant rags-to-riches narratives. He’s not haunted, merely human, burdened by the past but optimistic about the future. During closer “Bruce Wayne,” Takeoff confesses to his nervousness about first getting on stage and provides a perfect analogy for his relationship to the rest of the trio: The Last Rocket is the closest we’ve been yet to seeing one of the Migos with his mask off.

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