With a co-sign from enthusiastic fan Drake, the young rap trio have just begun reckoning with the world outside of Atlanta clubs. CHRISTINA LEE joins the rolling party, hovers in the VIP section, and explores the real-life Versace /”Versace” connection
Atlanta’s three-level Phipps Plaza mall is divided into two sections: Monarch Court and Court of the South. Head to the latter for the Versace outpost, its sparse displays lined with purses and scarves in flamingo pink and amethyst purple, bright colors that pale in comparison to the trademark Medusa emblems and gold Greco prints that first inspired the three young men in Migos to craft “Versace,” their Internet-borne breakout hit. “It really just started as a saying around the crib,” says Quavious Marshall, 22, lounging at an Atlanta studio belonging to the group’s manager, Coach K. “Versace.”.
Sitting nearby on this early July day is Marshall’s 19-year-old nephew, Kirshnik Ball, a.k.a. Takeoff, who chimes in with the song’s ubiquitous hook: “Versace, Versace.”. Quavo, Takeoff, and the Quavo’s 22-year-old cousin Offset (real name: Kiari Cephus), recorded the viral (more than three million YouTube views), Drake-featuring “Versace” remix with the Phipps Plaza store in mind. (The guys grew up 26 miles away in their sleepy, suburban hometown of Lawrenceville, Georgia.) But while the store in question sells streetwear-inspired gear like studded sneakers, Takeoff gravitates more toward sunglasses featuring a bedazzled Greco print at the hinges, just like Biggie used to wear. Otherwise, though, Migos ride almost exclusively for Southern rap. Takeoff still fondly remembers buying Young Buck’s 2007 album Welcome to the Traphouse at an Athens flea market, and all three members grew up loving Hot Boy$ and OutKast. You can also hear their affection- and influences- in the way that each MC bears a strong vocal resemblance to a more established regional star: Takeoff to Soulja Boy, Quavo to Gucci Mane, and Offset to Future. Though these newcomers sound like mainstays, they also rap with feverish, young-buck excitement.
Last month, Takeoff wore his B.I.G. glasses during two remarkable firsts: On June 15, Migos performed at rap radio station Hot 107.9’s Birthday Bash, the Atlanta equivalent of New York City’s fabled Summer Jam, and met surprise guest Drake, who approached Quavo and Takeoff backstage and raved about the trio’s just-released mixtape, Young Rich Niggas, and even reeled off his favorite tracks: “Bando,” “R.I.P.,” “Pronto,” and “Adios.”. “I was just eating wings, so when I turned around, I had sauce in my hands,” recalls Quavo, his voice hoarse. “When Drake shook my hand, I know that he had some sauce in his hand.”. No harm no foul. Two days later, Drake texted one of the group’s managers, looking to add a verse to a Migos track. The group offered him three possibilities. He picked “Versace.”.
A week after the fateful meeting, on June 22, Drake announced the release date for his third album, Nothing Was the Same, and posted four new songs on his website, including the reworked “Versace.” The song soon hit local radio and drew national attention to Young Rich Niggas. The New York Times ran a review; Justin Bieber lip-synced part of Drake’s verse in an Instagram video. By early July, Migos had lined up 19 straight days of gigs and a week-long press junket in New York.
“There ain’t nothing that we need to be worried about,” Quavo says of the group’s rapid rise. “We just need to be in the right lane where everybody else be in the left lane.”.
His and Takeoff’s only regret thus far is that Offset couldn’t perform at Birthday Bash with them. Since late January, he’s been in jail after taking a plea to a probation violation charge. (“That’s something we don’t handle,” Quavo says when pressed for specifics, although he discloses that Offset should be out by the end of this summer.). “We got a game of Double Dutch going, but he can just jump right in,” Takeoff says. (“He callin’ in verses,” Quavo adds.) “He’s not going to trip up. He’s going to hop right in the flow, just like us.”.