To those not firmly entrenched in the world of hip-hop, the name ‘Migos’ was relatively alien. That all changed on the night of March 6, when the Southern rap group’s headlining performance at Albany’s Washington Avenue Armory devolved into chaos.
As Migos stirred up the crowd with hits like “Versace” and “Fight Night” onstage, a melee broke out down below. Shocking video footage captured by a bystander showed metal barriers and trash cans being thrown and a violent mob kicking and beating a victim on the ground as people looked on in horror, shouting, “Chill! Chill!” Six men ranging from ages 16-28 were stabbed in the fracas, and a 19-year-old woman later reported to police that she was jumped by six people in the venue’s bathroom, absorbing several body blows before her purse was snatched.
The venue and authorities blamed Migos for the incident, citing the fact that they were supposed to go on at 10:30 p.m. but didn’t end up playing until after midnight, and alleged that they helped incite the “melee” when things started going south.
“For me, the key word is it is ‘unacceptable,’” Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said in a press conference the following Monday. “The melee, and I think it is fair to call it a melee, demonstrates a complete lack of control inside that building.”
“We are leaning toward not hosting artists such as Migos at the arena,” Armory spokesman Joe Bonilla said, including the “hip-hop genre and any artists that we identify that may pose a risk to our patrons.”
And Migos, a rap trio comprised of Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset, was banned from the Armory, and saw their name splashed across headlines linked to a series of stabbings.
“It be pissin’ me off because they’re messin’ with a lot of our money by putting our name on something that has nothing to do with us,” says Takeoff. “You can see in the pictures that we’re onstage performing and doing what we do.”“If you want the Migos to come to your venue, you need to have security there because of the type of music we’re rappin’. We get fans excited,” adds Quavo. “We’re gonna give you a great show. We’re tellin’ you to drink one time, smoke one time, so beef up [the security] and we’ll get with it. We weren’t with the stabbin’ and shit. It didn’t have nothin’ to do with us, but they banned us.”
I’m huddled together with Migos in a hotel lounge during SXSW. The relatives—Quavo, 24, and Takeoff, 20, are uncle and nephew, while Offset, 23, is Quavo’s cousin—are all wearing black t-shirts bearing the logo of their crew/fashion label YRN (Young Rich Nation), obscured by heaps of gold chains. Each member speaks with a heavy Southern drawl, although Quavo’s accent is the clearest, which is perhaps why, in addition to his being the eldest, he comes off as the de facto ringleader.
The young men formerly known as Quavious (Quavo), Kirshnik (Takeoff), and Kiari (Offset) all grew up in the same packed house together in Atlanta, Georgia. According to Quavo, his mother acted as the “‘hood mama” and took in everyone in the community, from runaways to relatives. “My mama just accepted everybody with open arms,” he says. “Everybody knew her.”
Early on, everything the fellas touched, it seems, became gospel. “If we did it, it was a trend, and we had a following,” says Takeoff. “After we killed Levi’s, we did True Religion. Before we were Migos, we were called Polo Club, and wore them thangs.” He pauses. “It was cool back then, but now it’s whack. We’re family. We’re Migos.”
And their North Atlanta neighborhood was rough, to say the least, and money was scarce. So the guys say they did whatever they had to do to survive including various—but unnamed—criminal activities.
“We never clocked a job. Just stuff we don’t like to talk about,” Takeoff says. “Before music, we were a family, so we had family shit to get done—bills that needed to be paid, food that needed to be put on the table—so you had to do whatever you had to do in the streets. We were our own bosses and never wanted to work for anybody. We like what we like.”
Three years ago, things came to a head. They needed “money to eat” and, while the trio had been dabbling in rapping for a while—looking up to “all that Southern slang” like Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Outkast, and Master P—they decided to formalize it and start a rap group.
Their 2013 song “Versace,” a flossing anthem inspired by the luxury fashion house, went viral, and ranked No. 4 on Complex’s “50 Best Songs of 2013” list. Versace soon reached out to the group, sending them shirts and extending an invite to one of their fashion shows. “That song is gonna help them forever. Check the Dow Jones,” Quavo says.
The problems began shortly thereafter. In December 2013, Chicago rapper Chief Keef, who has his own troubling history, accused Migos of “sneak dissin’” him. A Twitter war erupted, with threats of violence and diss tracks lobbed back and forth between Migos and Keef’s crew Glory Boyz Entertainment. If that weren’t enough, a September 2014 Migos show in Nashville turned into a huge brawl when one of the members’ chains was reportedly snatched, leading to the guys entering the crowd and raising hell. Video of the incident was posted on TMZ.
And two months after that, things heated up again between Keef and Migos when GBE accused Migos of jumping their member Capo in Chicago, prompting Keef’s cousin to threaten the group with death on Twitter. A week later, Keef’s boys claimed they’d jumped Quavo and snatched his chain, leading to more heated words. But by December, the beef had been squashed with both groups posing together for an Instagram photo-op.
When asked about the Chief Keef rivalry and the current state of their relationship, all three members of Migos shake their heads. “I’d just rather not talk about him, man,” says Takeoff.
Migos claims they’re trying to put their bad reputation behind them, funneling people’s focus on their upcoming debut LP, Y.R.N.: Tha Album, which hits stores June 16, and they say features cameos by Lil Wayne and Meek Mill. Their clothing line, YRN, drops the same day, and was inspired by their first hit.
“We brought Versace out and then everybody was doing it, and we watched Donatella walk out on the runway playin’ our song, and we thought, ‘Oh, hell no… we got to bring our own clothes out!’” says Quavo.
What sets Migos apart and makes them, in the words of Quavo, “the greatest rap group in the world,” is their strong family bond. “We starve together, we go to war together,” says Takeoff. “If this was the last cup we drank, we’d share this motherfucker.”