Following alleged label disputes and family in-fighting brought to light with a series of social media unfollowings in May of this year, the uncle-nephew duo (hence the nickname Unc & Phew) announced their first album as a pair last month, with an ambition to prove that they are “consistent individually, as a duo, and as a group”.
Posing in front of an American flag made out of chain links, akin to the cover of OutKast’s 2001 Stankonia, and having titled their album Only Built For Infinity Links as an homage to Raekwon’s 1995 classic, there is no question as to where the pair get their inspiration from.
Will OBFIL be held in the same esteem 25 years later as Raekwon’s OBFCL is now? Probably not. But Quavo and Offset prove on this album that trap can coexist with past hip-hop. The project’s opener, ‘Two Infinity Links’, excellently samples Jay-Z’s ‘1-900-Hustler’, setting the record’s production standard from the off, whilst the duo create an anthem of brotherhood with their verses.
The record boasts more diversity than we have come to expect from the Migos collective; ‘Bars into Captions’ doesn’t so much sample, as it does use the beat from Stankonia’s ‘So Fresh So Clean’ to create a classy track that pays homage to Atlanta’s legendary rap duo.
‘Mixy’ is a smooth trap-R&B mashup that sees Quavo somewhat successfully, albeit aided by autotune, try his hand at more melodic rap and even singing before building up into an exceptional Summer Walker feature. Young Thug shines above Gunna on ‘Chocolate,’ whilst the Tik-Tok famous ‘HOTEL LOBBY’ remains as catchy as ever, aided by the Murda Beatz instrumental.
The album does occasionally falter. ‘Tony Starks’, whilst not helped by its monotonous instrumental, is packed full of corny and amateurish bars (what does “Darth Vader coupe and it ain’t even dark” even mean?). ‘Look @ this’ is tarnished by lines such as “my diamonds got insurance it’s no GEICO,” and Quavo’s brag that he “even told Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder to look at this,” is over the top. Yet the occasional cringe simile or metaphor is to be expected from the group, whose biggest hit compares cooking drugs to cooking a stir fry.
At an hour runtime, Only Built For Infinity Links sometimes feels true to its name. For a genre of rap that isn’t intended to make you think and where attempts at social commentary are generally limited (‘Integration’ begins with a woman talking about dating white guys but quickly transitions into describing their all-white shirts, shoes, jeans and diamonds as a colony), an hour of trap tracks crafted for radio play and club sets will inevitably feel bloated and often repetitive.
‘Unc & Phew’ fall victim to this occasionally; tracks such as ‘Tools’ and ‘Messy’ feel samey when listening to uninspiring beats packed with hi-hats and heavy bass hits, along with the standard nonstop references to bitches and jewellery.
But Quavo and Takeoff do sound more focused and polished than their previous individual endeavours. ‘Two Infinity Links’ and ‘Us vs Them’ reinforce the comradeship between the two, and the production on this album shines throughout. Mustard’s use of trumpets in ‘See Bout It’ creates a triumphant anthem whilst a sleek guitar line backing ‘Hell Yeah’ compliments two superb verses which see the Migos duo flowing on top form.