Strippers have been A&Ring what you hear on the radio for more than a decade and a half, so it was smart that the first New York show for Atlanta trap-rappers Migos was at Westway, a repurposed strip club/venue with all the accouterments intact. The trio — consisting of rappers Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset (the latter of whom is currently incarcerated) — has been buzzing off their great mixtape Young Rich Niggas, particularly lead single “Versace,” an Atlanta club hit recently blessed by a Drake remix, They spent the week promoting the track at various clubs around the city, but this was their only show, streamed live on the underground British concert series Boiler Room.
The venue, bathed in red light and fog machine for maximum stripclub effect, was packed window to wall, and though it was an Atlanta-vibe show, the style was pure NYC: The crowd was clad in Pyrex, Been Trill, and Hood by Air clothing, doing tiny bounces to Southern anthems like Rich Homie Quan’s “Some Type of Way” DJ’d by Tommy Kruise. The pungent perfume of weed wafted heavily, but you knew that already. On a proscenium platform mid-venue, leftover from Westway’s strip club days, a couple of women in thigh high stockings and pum-pum shorts danced seductively, as if to underscore how important women are to breaking bass-heavy Southern anthems.
And, as it turns out, that’s where Migos performed, leaving the elevated stage at the front of the venue to the DJs and famous fans who showed, like the DJs A-Trak and Venus X. Quavo and Takeoff rolled up from the back, letting the ladies clear off the strip before appearing in MCM leather backpacks, rapping “Hannah Montana,” one of their many tracks about trap life under Westway’s signature naked-woman-shaped disco ball.
Chorus-heavy trap music is usually a crapshoot live, with rappers half-assing their own bars and letting their backing tracks do the heavy lifting. Not so with Migos, whose set was extremely brief but mesmerizing, as the diminutive dudes rapped their every lyric with gumption, including the adlibs — chirps, brrrrs, and skrrrts intact. Their repertoire is extremely dark, full of tracks about drug-pushing life that gain levity with the occasional funny adlib, and the venue was the perfect place to stage them, its energy transporting a bit of Atlanta to Manhattan’s West Side Highway.
They only ran through the hits — “Bando,” “FEMA,” “China Town,” “Versace” (no Drake, but they rapped along with his track-stealing verse for him, as did the crowd) — which was disappointing to those of us who wanted to hear deeper mixtape cuts like “Finesser” and “Dennis Rodman,” but it’s hard to be mad at rappers who make songs in which the eminently anthemic choruses loom so heavily. Five songs was far too brief, but not bad for a free rap show (particularly one that started when it was supposed to), and they proved themselves as not just hitmakers but formidable artists. As they closed the final bars on “China Town,” a photographer actually tried to crowd surf, and before anyone could blink, Migos was out.