As Migos transformed the sound of popular music with rat-a-tat-tat-a-tat flows, a fresh glossary of money and drugs terminology, and those delectable ad libs (“cookie!”), its members emerged as complementary characters: Quavo, the robo-singing frontman; Takeoff, the technically gifted source of ballast; and Offset, who channeled his particularly tough come-up into verses that were like cuckoo clocks—intricately crafted, patiently rhythmic, with pops of amusement. But Offset’s celebrity has also been tied to Cardi B, the New York City phenom whom he married and had a kid with. The couple met complications late last year, when she responded to rumors of his infidelity by breaking up with him. Offset in turn waged a highly public—and somewhat creepy—campaign for her forgiveness.
They’re back together now, but Offset seems to understand that his image has been scuffed. He also might sense that the flood of Migos content over the past few years, combined with its wide cultural influence, has threatened to dull the group’s edge. Last fall, the label executive Carlos Desrosiers told The New York Times about Offset’s new approach on his solo album. “It’s easy for him to do swag—but everyone’s giving the swag: the watches, the jewels, the cars,” Desrosiers said. Instead of focusing on those things, he advised Offset, “Give ’em substance, give ’em you.”
Father of 4 does deliver substance, though sometimes it can be hard to separate actual weightiness from the mere appearance of it. The album opens with piano and violin, solemnly played. The Dungeon Family’s Big Rube delivers spoken word in his gravelly voice. All of which, while effectively skin-tingling, could be signs of a cook-by-recipe approach to seriousness. But then Offset arrives, sing-rapping gently to each of the four children he’s had with four different women, apologizing for not being more present in their lives and explaining how the hustle to keep them fed has also kept them apart. He’s working in a mode that’s not his usual rapid-fire associations, but rather closer to linear storytelling. The results are simple, surprising, and credible.
He rarely returns to that first song’s narrative style, but he does use the signature Migos approach—not so much painting a picture as spraying a vibe—for a kind of pointillistic take on spooky situations. The standout “Tats on My Face,” constructed of sampled laughter and eerie pinging sounds, portrays him looking in the mirror, at the height of success, and feeling an unhappy chill. The single “Red Room” similarly injects a haunted feeling into his recollections of struggling for, and then achieving, success. “Money turn homies to zombies,” he raps, not the only time he mentions the undead on the album.
But he rarely pushes beyond listing the sources of his damage. On his take-me-back plea to Cardi, “Don’t Lose Me,” the beat cleverly loops a chirping cricket, as if he’s rapping at dusk. The title refers to a warning she once gave him, and he tries to save their relationship mostly with expressions of affection. “When you leave by my side, I get woozy,” he raps, before delivering a sweetly crass compliment: “When you onstage twerkin’ in your two piece / Starin’ on the ground, you know you amuse me.” Their problems, meanwhile, are treated only glancingly. “Temptation, had the devil in my soul,” he says, as if reading from a script.