Now that Migos has finally hit their bad-and-boujee sweet spot and basically won a Golden Globe, I have a very specific request. The group is rich in furs and memes, and Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset keep their fingers steady on the pulse of the culture, which is also the title of their very good sophomore album. Its 13 songs are true to themes that established the trio as being better than the Beatles: They’re ambitious, hedonistic, and just plain fun. So it’s time they had a music video that reflects every part of that sensibility. And so, with the power vested in me by basically no one, I humbly suggest they hire British filmmaker Andrea Arnold to direct one.
Migos already make fine music videos. The erratic, freewheeling visuals they relied on early on in their career have settled into a style that’s still outrageous but more fun, while keeping the same goofy excess. In the days of their Y.R.N. mixtapes, their videos worked off the strength of their charisma, but the Culture era has seen them embrace higher production values. Take the video for “T-Shirt,” in which Migos remake The Revenant as something both luxurious and actually exciting. The camera that once zipped frenetically between images of chains, women, and logos in “Hannah Montana” and “Versace” has calmed down, letting the central premise (bringing fur coats, an inescapable rap-video trope, to their natural woodsy setting) breathe. Of course they were feeling themselves — they were wearing snow-dusted mink coats!
Migos’ style — their youth, their utter openness about their place in rap’s canon — feels like a stylistic fit for Arnold, director of last year’s American Honey. At face value, her filmography doesn’t seem especially bad nor boujee. But Arnold has a knack for coming-of-age narratives, and two of her last three features — Honey, and 2009’s Fish Tank — have used hip-hop to peer into the inner lives of teenage girls. In her hands, rap songs, even ones that aren’t particularly good, become hymns. Fish Tank — a movie about a rebellious teen whose only ambition is to become a hip-hop dancer — didn’t shy away from moments when it seemed like its own protagonist missed the music’s point. Fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) dances to Rakim at a strip-club audition, and her most tender scene with her mother is soundtracked by Nas’s “Life’s a Bitch.” That the music isn’t perfectly suited to the scene heightens its narrative power: Arnold isn’t showing contrasts, but awkwardness, letting music and emotion run parallel before they intersect in the climax.
American Honey, meanwhile, is about people who fit so squarely into Migos’ oeuvre that the group even makes an appearance on the soundtrack. The film’s roaming band of magazine-selling teens have established E-40 and Rihanna as their prophets, so when Carnage’s “Bricks” (featuring Migos) plays, it thunders. The song soundtracks the crew’s weekly “Loser Night,” where the lowest-earning salespeople are pitted against each other in hand-to-hand combat. Lit by fire and fireworks, the two teens wrestle in the background as our lovesick leads (Shia LaBeouf and Sasha Lane) avoid eye contact. The camera moves like a pinball, dragging and distorting the energy from the song’s real music video — a generic yacht party — into something grimy and carnal.
It’s not that the group need a Cannes-certified filmmaker to refine them, but rather that the combination of Migos and Andrea Arnold would make for a thrilling collaboration. Arnold’s camera finds lyricism in what others would dismiss as youthful horniness; most of Migos videos would be unexceptional without their individual mannerisms (the way Quavo dabs his date’s mouth with her napkin in “Bad and Boujee,” or how Takeoff sips from a styrofoam cup and says “Act!” in the “Call Casting” video). That the collaboration isn’t a perfect fit is what makes it more ideal: Migos’ style is all about excess and aspiration, while Arnold usually makes movies about working-class women. That’s why I’m calling it: Arnold needs to direct the music video for “Kelly Price,” or maybe “Get Right Whichtu,” or any other Migos song she wants. If Shia LeBouf and his rattail made a guest appearance, I wouldn’t complain.