Quality Control Music/Motown Records/Capitol Records
Quality Control Music/Motown Records/Capitol Records

The marquee collaborations and TMZ-ready name drops will surely pull you in, but the debut studio long-player from Quavious Marshall might leave you with questions as to his sustainability as a compelling, fully formed solo act.

We know the eldest Migos member can write a hit, but does he have the depth and versatility necessary to carry an entire project on his shoulders?

At least he has our attention.

“Huncho Dreams”—destined to be Quavo Huncho’s most-discussed lyric sheet—(over?)responds to Quavo’s funny name drop in Nicki Minaj’s “Barbie Dreams” ("Maybe I should let him Auto-Tune up the pussy”) in a way that makes a fling feel real. Flipping Drake’s “In My Feelings” flow into “Nicki, do you love me?” contends with the “Straight out the jungle—no Safaree” punchline as the tune’s most rewind-worthy moment. If Quavo’s just trolling, it’s at a high level.

And “Champagne Rose” leaps off the tracklist for its double cameo of Cardi B and Madonna. (Yes, that Madonna.) Cardi’s verse is too short, Quavo’s is too forgettable, and the most interesting part of Madonna’s understated, robotic contribution might be that she’s here, on a relevant 2018 rap record, at all—26 years after she linked with Big Daddy Kane.

Sadly, Huncho’s compelling highs—an ode to Juvenile’s “Ha” flow here, a killer flute loop there—can drown in some album cuts that feel like generic Migos material.

Somewhere sprinkled among this bulky collection is a tight, fun and breezy pop album. When you consider that Migos’ slogging 24-track Culture II clocks in with 11 more tracks than its superior predecessor, and Quavo’s debut stretches to the 19-song mark, there is an irony these projects have been released by Quality Control. Good editors make good writers. Here’s hoping quantity control is exercised next go ’round.

Remember, Quavo’s pen has helped craft non-Migos singles like DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One,” Young Thug’s “Pick Up the Phone,” Drake’s “Portland,” Post Malone’s “Congratulations,” and, most recently, Jay-Z and Beyonce’s “Apeshit.” Dude knows what works on radio, so he could do without some of the easily forgotten filler (“Bubble Gum,” “Workin Me,” “Big Bro”) that detracts from the jewels.

“Go All the Way” arguably the LP’s most infectious joint, is screaming to be released as a single, as Quavo carries a groovy, techno-spiced club beat with charisma and energy. Unfortunately, it’s buried at the back third of the tracklist. Ditto for the refreshing “Swing,” which wins by incorporating dancehall pop and shows Quavo’s range as a vocalist outside the usual triplet trap confines. The song also colors outside of the lines with vocal contributions from Fifth Harmony’s Normani and Nigerian star Davido, making for a compelling mix of voices. A winner.

The Kid Cudi–thieving “Lost” closes the album and is another welcome stab at something a little left. Quavo even takes a break from flaunting his Lambo and bling receipts, to flick at something greater: “In this world, they divide us all…”

A demanding listener yearns for Quavo to take even more risks, to differentiate himself as a unique solo threat and to ditch a few of the trap-by-numbers tracks that sound like Culture series leftovers with fewer voices. Think of the giant creative sidesteps artists such as Lil Wayne, Lauryn Hill, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, MF Doom and Cee-Lo Green made when they decided to go for delf.

What Quavo Huncho is not: the visionary opus of a man trying to express ideas and sounds he couldn’t fit into the Migos sphere. Takeoff (“Keep That Shit”) and Offset (“Fuck 12”) are both much-welcome party guests here, and each delivers a more inspired verse than their host. Drop-ins from Travis Scott, 21 Savage and Drake (who may have lobbed another subliminal at Pusha-T) are also appreciated, partly because you wonder if Quavo has enough to say for three verses.

What Huncho is: a scattershot collection of fresh-yet-familiar thumpers that will nicely keep the Migos brand bubbling through the forthcoming solo sets from kinfolk Offset and Takeoff. This is step one in building anticipation for the inevitable reunion record of three voices that, until proven otherwise, are best experienced playing off one another.

“Everything I do on my album I can do with the boys,” Quavo told GQ in a recent interview. “If I make myself a great artist by doing this, it only makes our group super, super huge. It makes the demand even bigger and better, because then we’ll be able to do a Migos concert and solo tours all in one, and that’s my dream.” —Luke Fox

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