How Quavo Pays Tribute to Takeoff On His New Album ‘Rocket Power’

The Migos member’s new solo LP is informed by loss, grief, and celebration of his late nephew.

ATLANTA GEORGIA  AUGUST 15 Rapper Quavo attends Rocket Power Album Pop Up Shop at Good Times Atlanta on August 15 2023...

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – AUGUST 15: Rapper Quavo attends Rocket Power Album Pop Up Shop at Good Times Atlanta on August 15, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)Prince Williams

It’s been about five years since Quavo released his first solo album, Quavo Huncho, but the arrival of his new project Rocket Power is less a moment of triumph than one of solemnity. “Rocket” was a nickname for Takeoff, Quavo’s nephew and cohort in their rap group Migos (which also included their “cousin” Offset). As Quavo’s first collection of songs since Takeoff’s death last year, it’s clear that the album is informed by grief and loss. As a body of work, Rocket Power is a much stronger LP than the uneven Quavo Huncho. Quavo sounds motivated to honor Takeoff, resulting in some of the sharpest flows, most poignant lyrics, and infectious melodies he’s put together since the early days of Migos.

Rocket Power does not include “Without You,” the tender tribute song Quavo released in early 2023, but the presence of the Migos MC, who was killed in November 2022, looms large across the album’s 18 songs. “I gotta go up for Take,” Quavo pledges on the opener, which sounds almost gladiatorial as he raps atop thundering synths and distorted 808s.

Takeoff appears on two tracks, including the early highlight “Patty Cake,” in which the pair showcase the type of easy chemistry that made Only Built for Infinity Links, their album as the duo Unc & Phew, a mid-career highlight. The song likely was a demo from those sessions that was repurposed, since Takeoff has the starring role here, and Quavo’s lyrics don’t reference the loss of his friend and family member.

On the third track, “Mama Told Me,” Quavo pays tribute to his mother as well, Edna Marshall. Marshall was a key parental figure to Takeoff as well, and Quavo’s lyrics delve into the relationship between the three of them, including how the two MCs would help pay for expenses, how she taught the duo business savvy (“Mama told me how to finesse them white folks / Me and Takeoff turned to businessmen”), and how she was a pillar of stability in their north Atlanta community (“My mama took the whole Nawfside and everybody ate”). Takeoff’s mother is Quavo’s sister, hence the “Unc & Phew” group name though the pair have always maintained their relationship is closer than that. “ I don’t look at him as my uncle, but more as my brother,” Takeoff told The FADER in 2013.

The minor-key track “Hold Me” sees Quavo speaking to several of his posthumous loved ones, including Takeoff and his mother. “Lost my nephew to gunplay and smoke shit / Lost my dawgs to some petty ass ho shit,” he raps. This solemn side of Quavo is one we’ve seen very little since the Atlanta MC became an A-list rap star, but it suits his penchant for catchy melodies and his ability to evoke emotion with his auto-tune crooning. The album’s title track is particularly gutting, as Quavo raps about his sister’s struggle to cope with the death of her son, and the general toll that loss has taken on their family. “Mama said she cryin’ and she cryin’ in her sleep / And she don’t know nobody else to call on but Tree / Yeah, that’s Mama Rocket, and she strong as can be / Lookin’ at my family, we tryna get through grief,” he says.

On the menacing “11.11,” Quavo continues honoring Takeoff (“I watched my brother Takeoff go to Heaven, an angel, we celebrate 11/11”) and candidly sharing his emotional state (“Dark nights, I can’t sleep, so I cry ’til I close my eyes”), while also addressing the uncertain future of Migos amid rumors of tension between he and Offset. “Who the fuck gonna put us together? Can’t nobody put this shit back together / So stay the fuck out of the middle, lil’ fella, we always gon’ be that, we fam’ forever (Migo),” he raps, capping the cascading bars with one of the group’s signature ad-libs. Rocket Power closes with the previously released “Greatness,” a moving record in which Quavo seemingly quashes the idea of a Migos return (“Don’t ask about the group, he gone, we gone, young n-gaa, it can’t come back”) and calls Takeoff “the greatest nephew in the world.”

In an Instagram post the day before the album’s release, Quavo wrote that Rocket Power “embodied all my emotions.” Overall, the LP lives up to that billing–if it’s not the most sonically thrilling release of Quavo’s career, it’s certainly the most revealing, and serves as a moving tribute to Takeoff.

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