The Origins Of The Migos Flow
Anyone that's heard a rap song from the last few years, will be familiar with what’s been coined as the ‘Migos flow’ or the ‘Triplet flow’. But what is it and how did it start?
One of the first memories I have of hearing the flow was in July of 2013, when Migos released their remix of Versace that featured Drake who had adopted the flow. I then began listening to more Migos and very quickly became excited about a musical manipulation I could not explain but very much appreciated. As someone who knows very little about music theory and who can’t put together a verse to save my life, I appreciate all forms of musical, artistic manipulation in order to create a particular rhythm and therefore sound. And as I read a lot more into it, I begin to appreciate more the technicalities behind it.
How does it work? The triplet flow works by essentially combining one beat into three notes. This is very different from the 4/4 time signature a lot of us know and are familiar with:
1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.
This can be divided and made quicker to change the speed of the flow, but the fundamental 1,2,3,4 is never lost in this process. Triplets, however, differ in that they have three beats for each quarter note.
ONE-e-uh | TWO-e-uh | THREE-e-uh | FOUR-e-uh
What makes it so exciting is the rebellion from the standard 4/4 flow we’re used to, so hearing Migos and Drake adopt this for the first time was not only eye opening to a new future of mainstream rap, but it was also compelling. It's almost rebellious, which is what contributes to people's excitement for it.
When did it start?
The lineage of the triplet flow can be traced all the way back to the late 80’s with Public enemy ‘bring the noise’.
Since then, we saw it begin to slowly creep into other artists flow:
The Dismasters (New York) - Small Time Hustle
NWA - If It Ain't Ruff
Fast forward to the 2000’s:
Crime Mob - Knuck If You Buck
Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools (Drank)
Future - I'm Trippin
And of course, Migos - Versace
Who pioneered it?
This debate is subjective, as although people had already been aptopting the flow many years before we’d even heard of the Migos, it would be disingenuous of me to say they didn't play a huge part in its popularisation. Hearing Drake on the Versace remix took us by surprise because the Drake we knew was not using this flow normally. And unless you were an OG Migos fan, it was probably the first time you’d heard it in mainstream rap. Since 2013, the course of rap flows has changed and we’ve seen the triplet flow take precedence for modern day/Gen Z rap.
Will rap flows change?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Rap is constantly evolving and is still a ‘young’ genre, it doesn’t sound like what it did twenty years ago. Since its popularisation into mainstream rap, newer artists have adopted the triplet flow and developed it into their own unique style. And the likes of Gunna, Lil baby, Lil Yatchy and Playboi Carti are among many new generation artists who’ve done so:
How many more other possible rap flows are there? And until another artist pioneers the answer to this, the triplet flow will continue to be exemplary of modern day rap.