09.22.2015

Migos Ad-libs: A Statistical Approach

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There are 743 ad-libs on Yung Rich Nation, and we did math stuff with all of them.

Migos debut studio album, Yung Rich Nation – which released July 31st – showed once again that the Atlanta rap trio are masters of the extemporaneous. Quavo, Takeoff and Offset are synonymous with their triplet-heavy flows, Versace-filled wardrobes, and club-infecting genius, but more than anything else, fans love one thing: their ad-libs. In search of quantifiable answers to the supernatural, Couchface set out statistically analyze the ad-libs on Yung Rich Nation.

Data Collection

In the process of collecting data for this analysis, we followed strict guidelines in order to maintain the integrity of the analysis while also remaining true to the integrity of the artists. First, we defined an “ad-lib” for the purpose of this analysis. We considered any original sound, meaning something that was not a result of a producer’s delay or echo effect, that was not part of the primary lyrical structure of a hook or verse to be an ad-lib. Additionally, each hook was counted only once per song.

The ad-libs were marked by verse or hook, and when necessary, by line, with attribution given to the primary rapper on the verse, or generally to a hook. While the Migos certainly record ad-libs for each other’s verses, identifying the voice for every individual ad-lib would be an almost impossible undertaking. Since a large portion of the hooks were shared, we categorized hooks as their own category. We also chose not to include the Migos saying their own names at the beginning or end of a verse, as these were considered identifiers as opposed to ad-libs.

In identifying individual ad-libs, we representing the varying lengths of the sounds when possible. For instance, the data set contains distinctions between a short “Skirt” sound and a longer “Skiiiiiirt,” as determined by our data collector. While these distinctions are somewhat subjective, there was significant effort made to be consistent in classifying the length of a sound. Along these same lines, if a word or sound was repeated quickly in a single ad-lib, it was considered its own ad-lib, distinct from the word or sound appearing alone (e.g. “Skirt” vs. “Skirt skirt”).

Finally, we noted if the purpose of an ad-lib was to emphasize a word from the preceding line through repetition. If there was any differentiation, including pluralization, abbreviation, or addition of other words or sounds, it was not considered a repeat for the purposes of our data collection.

Big Picture Data

Yung Rich Nation boasts a hefty total of 743 ad-libs over 15 tracks. Utilizing our qualifiers for length and repetition, that amounts to 339 individual ad-libs throughout the album. Even after condensing the data for word or sound repetition and removing length distinctions, there are still over 200 unique ad-libs on the album. Of the 743 total ad-libs, only 25% are word-for-word repeats from the preceding line, illustrating Migos’ ability to blend a range of unique vocal sounds into their verses and hooks.

Of the 339 individual ad-libs present on Yung Rich Nation, only 13 appear 10 or more times. Although the group favors certain ad-libs, variety is nonetheless king on their debut album. The project’s three most used ad-libs are “Uh,” “Ooh,” and “Woo,” which are simple and versatile enough to see inclusion throughout the tracklist.

Top Ten Ad-libs by Uses

  • 1 – “Uh” (28)
  • 2 – “Ooh” (25)
  • 3 – “Woo” (24)
  • 4 – “Whoop” (22)
  • T5 – “Huh” (21)
  • T5 – “Oh” (21)
  • 7 – “Nah” (20)
  • 8 – “Yeah” (13)
  • 9 – “Gas” (12)
  • T10 – “Bao” (11)
  • T10 – “Skirt” (11)

 

Three other ad-libs familiar to any fan of Migos are “Gas,” “Shine,” and “Damn.” A clear pattern emerges when examining the contexts in which each of these ad-libs are used. When the Migos use “Gas” as an ad-lib, it is always following a reference to smoking marijuana. Similarly, “Shine” accompanies a reference to diamonds or jewelry. “Damn” is used after discussing jail or legal troubles.

Migos also utilize a significant number of onomatopoeiae to supplement their library of ad-libs. Always in pursuit of variety, the group uses ten different ad-libs to mimic the sounds of gunshots, ranging from the traditional “Pop pop pop” to the more aggressive, guttural “Grao.” Slight alterations to the ending of more frequently used ad-libs are another exhibit of Migos’ ranging vocal folly. Three different ending consonants convey different meanings for the traditional rolled R “Brrrrr” ad-lib. “Brrrrt” represents the ringing of a phone, “Brrrrd” represents the birdcall made famous by the Birdman Jr. himself, Lil’ Wayne, and “Brrrrp” representing a quick-firing machine gun (another one of those 10 gun sounds).

Individual Choices

While the solo careers of the individual Migos remain on the backburner with the group giving no indication of a breakup or hiatus any time soon, there are still clear distinctions between each member’s use of ad-libs throughout Yung Rich Nation. The graph below provides an idea of the number of ad-libs each Migo uses as a percentage of the whole.

There is a clear distinction between the tone of ad-libs used by the group’s members. Quavo, the group’s musical leader, tends to use more positive sounds. For example, 50% of the “Woo”s and “Whoop”s used as ad-libs are found in hooks, which are typically done by Quavo himself, or his verses. Those hooks and verses are also the only sources of “Yeah” as an ad-lib on the album.

Contrast that with the ad-libs of Takeoff. Of the 21 times “Nah” is used in an ad-lib, 14 occur in his verses. Takeoff is also responsible for 71% of the album’s growling, guttural ad-libs such as “Blaaaach” and “Grr”. These reflect the darker lyrics within his verses in contrast to the more upbeat bars in Quavo’s.

The ad-libs on the album are distributed relatively evenly between the members. Quavo comes out ahead in terms of raw numbers, which makes sense considering he has the first verse on a majority of the songs on the album. Despite being in jail for a significant amount of time leading up to Yung Rich Nation’s release, and subsequently being absent from a couple of the tracks, Offset still accounts for 25% of the album’s ad-libs. That number makes it even more surprising that Offset is responsible for the album’s only ad-lib-free verse, the third verse on “Playa Playa.” If Offset can overcome his legal issues, his increased presence should be reflected in the ad-libs.

Other Data Of Interest

  • “Dab Daddy,” the album’s second track, introduces “Dab” as a new go-to ad-lib. While it is a repeat of the preceding line 80% of the time on Yung Rich Nation, look for “Dab” to join the stable of Migos’ frequently used ad-libs going forward.
  • The group employs many variations of the tire-squealing sound “Skirt” on the album. Quavo tends to opt for the shorter “Skiirt” or “Skiiirt,” Takeoff uses the intermediate “Skiiirt” and “Skiiiirt,” and Offset prefers the extended “Skiiiirt” or “Skiiiiiirt.”
  • All three members reference a number of drugs in their ad-libs, but Takeoff is the only one to specify the brand, shouting out Actavis, his preferred supplier of lean, four times on the album.
  • Fellow Atlanta rapper and ad-lib connoisseur Young Thug contributes the lone guest verse to Yung Rich Nation, and he is able to include an impressive 11 ad-libs in his verse, while also lending ad-libs to each of the track’s other verses as well as the hook.
Jake Anderson (@Grandpa_Jake) is kinda scared of the tough questions.