When the members of Atlanta rap group Migos each dropped individual solo albums in the past — Quavo and Takeoff in 2018, Offset in early 2019 — there wasn’t much doubt about the future of the rap trio who’d collectively conquered commercial heights. The same might have been said of Quavo and Takeoff’s newest album Only Built For Infinity Links, released today, were it not for ongoing tension between Offset and label Quality Control Music. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against the label over ownership of his solo recordings, accusing QC of “knowingly violating” his rights to his own music.
Offset so far has been mum on the subject, and Quavo mentioned an issue of “loyalty” between the “three brothers” during his and Takeoff’s appearance on The Big Facts podcast, but didn’t expand much further. During our recent Zoom conversation, the two Migos members stressed that the group is still intact, just on an indefinite hiatus. They say their pivot as Unc & Phew, a reference to Quavo being Takeoff’s uncle, is about building on the chemistry they’ve always had. During our conversation, they finish each other’s sentences and augment the others’ ideas like the close family members they are. Quavo and Takeoff say they were intentional about the project’s title as an homage to Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, where Raekwon and Ghostface Killah united for a de facto collab album that was still firmly under the Wu-Tang Clan flag. When Quavo speaks on the album, he says, “this whole album’s about catering to the fans and giving them that good Migos music.” This project is a part of the Migos universe, not the start of a new chapter altogether.
Quavo and Takeoff talked to Rolling Stone about Only Built For Infinity Links, the rise of trap, and playing in Drake’s next basketball tournament.
How did you come up with the idea to name the album Only Built For Infinity Links?
Takeoff: Yeah. We went through a few rough drafts. I’ll say about crunch time almost, not at the end, but right before.
Quavo: Also, we wanted to put this dynamic duo pack together. There’s a lot of duos out there. We wanted to pay homage and let them know that we next up. We following the footsteps. And Takeoff came up with the name Only Built For Infinity Links, and told us the reason why and I was just like, “Man, it’s crazy because the modern-day Cuban link is the Infinity link.” And then on top of that, it made sense because Wu-Tang was a group and then them boys did a duo track. So it just was like magic.
What was that conversation with Raekwon like when you told him the title?
Quavo: We was in Atlanta at a sports bar. It was one of the days [soon after] we named the album, and then he just walked right into the building, and I was like, “Damn, look at this.” And I thought it was a blessing. I thought it was spontaneous, I thought [he] was there for a reason. So we just chopped it up and I told him, “Bro, we’ve been rockin’ with [y’all] for the longest. We look up to y’all as a group. It’s funny that we named the album kind of after y’all.” And he was just like, “Man, that shit dope.”
Takeoff: Yeah, he called me. I was at the crib, he actually called me and Rae got on the phone. It was loud, like he said, it was in a loud place, so I heard little piece by piece and he was just like, saying, “Whatever y’all want to do, we rocking with it. It’s love.”
What made you choose to release “Nothing Changed” as the single in front of the album?
Quavo: Yeah, it is highly anticipated. It was a snippet that I had put out two years ago and they just been asking for it. They been asking for it crazy. And this is all about catering to the fans. This whole album’s about catering to the fans and giving them that good Migos music. So we had to get them “Nothing Changed.”
How long have y’all been recording songs for this project?
Takeoff: We always record. We in the studio right now as we speak. We got the project wrapped up and it’s ready to go 100% done, like my boy Khaled would say. But we always recording. Ain’t no deadline when we stop. We recording our way up through the whole time.
At what point did y’all realize, “Okay, let’s do this album, these songs that we’re recording are for the album?”
Quavo: Well, definitely when we got a date, it started getting to crunch time. We had the foundation of the album, but we wanted to just add more little key little moments that an album needs, like just the slow moments, the real hip-hop moments. And with this album, we just wanted to give them all elements of that hip-hop, slow R&B feel, melodic Quavo, rap Quavo, melodic Takeoff, rap Takeoff. And then also give him that real raw Migos sound with a couple of those bangers in there. We hit all aspects that our fans love.
What would you say the balance was between in-studio sessions versus solo sessions for this one?
Quavo: I’d say about fifty percent. I think it’s pretty much down the middle. We got three or four songs going back and forth where we had to do them in the studio. And then we broke some songs down and we went back and forth. And so a lot of these songs, we had to just go back and add some more dazzle on things.
Takeoff: Yeah. Really touching them up and just finishing them.
So throughout your career when y’all are doing the back-and-forth verses, y’all are doing it in-studio together?
Quavo: Yeah, we in the studio. He on the mic, he do a four [bars], I get off and I do another four. He do another four, and I get off and do another four. We just jump in the mother fucker like double dutch.
Takeoff: On this one, it might be a two, it might be a one and you come back and you finish the two. Ain’t no rules to it.
Were there any particularly memorable studio sessions for this project?
Quavo: Most definitely.
Takeoff: Man, we got what “Tony Stark?”
Quavo: “Tony Stark.” We got, “Look at This.” It’s a lot of records. We had fun, man. We had to just go off and just zone out. We had to just bunker in. I felt like Bruce Wayne just watching the screens and watching the world just going into chaos. Fans listen to music that they have to listen to because it’s just the shit that’s out and none of the heavyweights is dropping rapidly no more. So we just felt like okay cool. We collecting all this information and putting it in this fucking music and we dropping this mother fucking album on their damn heads.
When you liken yourself to Bruce Wayne looking out over the chaos, is that a reference to the pandemic or just what’s going on in society?
Quavo: What’s going on just musically and in society. You got to talk about what’s going on in the streets and in the field. It’s just letting them folks know that we here with them. That why we dropped “Us Versus Them.” We got a song called “Integration” where we just talking about the difference between Black and white and putting them together the way that they are today. We got another record called “Stick In My Pants” where we’re talking about [how] the modern-day girl don’t need a man, she got OnlyFans. It’s all different, what we see today and what we see in society, what we see on socials. So we’re happy. Ready to give it to ’em.
One of the songs that immediately caught my interest when I saw the tracklist is “Chocolate” with Young Thug and Gunna. What was the recording process for that?
Quavo: We got many songs, but this was the latest song that we had did. If I’m not mistaken, I think we was in London or LA — that’s two different areas — but I’m just saying either London or LA what we had did it and I think that was the last record we did. And that motherfucker is out of here, that song is a rocket itself. And we have fun. We always have fun when we get to the studio with them. I’ve been knowing them for a long time. Free them Boys.
Takeoff: Free them.
Quavo: Hope they get through whatever they going through right now and get back to this money and get back on the road and get to it. Like I said, we always have fun. We’ve been knowing them for a long time and man, anytime I can put them on my album, I will.
Have y’all been able to talk to either of them in the past several months?
Quavo: Not really.
Why do you think the city of Atlanta’s seemingly criminalizing the rap scene after embracing it for so many years? It was key to Atlanta being called “Black Hollywood” and now it seems like it’s in the crosshairs, so to speak.
Takeoff: That’s crazy.
Quavo: That’s a good question. I just feel like everybody got their own time where stuff happens and I just feel like it’s all a testimony or trials and tribulations to that journey. Everybody ain’t have it easy and everybody ain’t going to have it easy getting through, especially being a target, being one of the biggest artists and being one of the greatest artists in the city, staying home and making sure that we remain in the culture and [are] touching the people. So you got learn how to dodge trouble because we so susceptible in society and we have to be, because we got to be on the ground and in the field for our community.
Your first project was released in 2011. Since that time, pop music has borrowed so heavily from the trap sound. Why do you think the trap sound has become the predominant sound of the past 10 years or so — or even longer than that?
Quavo: It’s been going longer than that. But right now, the last 10 years for us, we just been making it more acceptable to the crossover world. We were the first ones to say, “In the kitchen wrist twistin, like it’s stir fry.”
Takeoff: Whipping it with the Hannah Montana.
Quavo: We brought the “Hannah Montana.” We brought the trap to the pop world, made it with the lingo. We made it feel like they was talking about something else. “Even with rain drop, drop top, smokin’ on cookie in the hot box,” it’s about putting that together and marrying that world and making them kids say that and not [what’s actually going on]. What we did was hard. Coming from that area, it was hard, it was tough, but at the same time, it’s a fun grind. It builds your hunger, it builds your Mamba mentality. And that’s what we do in the studio.
Takeoff: Yeah, man. Friendly metaphors just with what you talking about in real life, what’s going on in the streets, that’s the deadly combination that just go together. There’s something about it.
I saw that there may be plans to put out a Migos documentary. How did that idea start?
Quavo: We still in the works, the documentary is still works, we still shooting it right now. It’s not done yet, but it’s the idea. The shit start with the idea first and then they get down to the-
Takeoff: Real stuff.
Quavo: Yeah. We do have a documentary and just want to take y’all on our journey as The Migos that’s where it started and that’s how we came together as a three and still going on today. But I feel like the more years, the more footage, the more we can document, the better it is. So the longer, the better, I feel like. In the meantime though, I’ve been thinking of these ideas where we can drop little short films to keep fans and keep people a part of the journey, just to remind people that we’ve been in the game for 10 years and that we have over 30 billboards hits on the Hot 100 individually and as a group, plaques and just taking them down the timeline, bro. Because I feel like every five to 10 years you got to remind people of what you did in your legacy.
Quavo: How Culture, Culture II came about, how Culture III came about, even this album Only Built for Infinity Links. So I think we going to start from the back and then work backward. So we’ll probably start from this album and then take them on a journey backward going through the timeline.
Quavo, you had an audio clip that kind of went viral recently and one of the bars was “Can’t let ego, can’t let money come between the team.” What inspired that line?
Quavo: Just life. The journey. When you get money man, egos, jealousy, envy, everything come your way and you just got to be still grounded and still got to be humble, man. And through this journey, we, unfortunately, had to go through some of that. And right now we are in a space to where we can tell our testimony in this album and that’s how it felt.
I saw that some of the records are credited as Unc and Phew, but then I saw Birdman and Gucci Mane songs recently where it was Quavo and Takeoff. So I was wondering how do y’all decide when y’all want to incorporate that name as far as the credits on the records?
Quavo: Unc and Phew was the original name of the album that we was going to drop when we first did this tape.
Takeoff: The very beginning.
Quavo: And so we ended up changing the name of the album and we just liked Quavo & Takeoff. I feel like the group is going to always be the group Migos and then Quavo and Takeoff’s going to be Quavo and Takeoff.
The people want to know: have y’all thought about when the next Migos project might be coming out?
Quavo: Not yet.
Takeoff: Nah. Not yet. Infinity Links is the only thing we focusin’ on. Infinity Links and giving the fans something new.
Quavo: Like we said, everyone, the world just know the three and it’s more to that, it’s more to breakdown than that, and it’s a good journey. I feel like y’all need to see where the game finna go from here. And I think it’s the moon. So if you want to take this ride, put your seat seatbelt on, the rocket ship is gone.