A Retrospective on the Life and Career of Takeoff


Sam Kurtzman, Office Assistant

Lupe Fiasco’s “ON FAUX NEM” opens with a brief statement that speaks volumes over its mere two lines: 

Rappers die too much / 

That’s it, that’s the verse.” 

Some may call this self-righteous and obvious, but since this song’s release only 132 days ago, three more hip hop artists have been killed in shootings. It needs to be said — 23 rappers have been killed since XXXTENTACION’s death in 2018. Sadly, Migos member Takeoff joined this list after being shot during a dice game in the early morning of Nov. 1. But it is my hope that Takeoff is remembered as more than just a name in a list of dead men that goes on far too long. 

Takeoff, along with his uncle Quavo and cousin once-removed Offset made up the influential trap trio Migos. The three grew up together in suburban Atlanta and formed Migos in 2008. They released critically acclaimed mixtapes and singles before exploding in popularity with the release of their debut album, Culture, and its lead single, “Bad and Boujee.”

When people discuss Migos, Quavo and Offset are always mentioned first. In fact, Takeoff is not even present on “Bad and Boujee.” Quavo was the front man, often handling the choruses and ad-libs, while Offset’s ear-catching flows brought listeners in. And then there was Takeoff, who almost always came in on the last verse of songs with his deep voice and distinct delivery neatly wrapping it all up in a bow. His consistency in final verses has led me, my friends and many others to dub Takeoff as the Migos member who takes it home, per se. I often find myself anticipating Takeoff’s grand slam of a closing verse while listening to any of Migos’ plethora of hits and deep cut bangers. 

Just weeks ago, Quavo and Takeoff released a joint album, Only Built For Infinity Links, on which Takeoff routinely steals the spotlight from his normally front-and-center uncle. On songs like “Two Infinity Links” and “Integration,” Takeoff demolishes the beat with his uniquely metronomic flow. Additionally, on the track “Bars Into Captions,” he demonstrates his versatility and reverence for Outkast with his interpolation of Andre 3000’s delivery on “So Fresh, So Clean.” 

I could dig into a mountain of memorable Takeoff performances on Migos songs like “Versace (Remix),” “T-Shirt,” “BBO,” “Stir Fry” and “Avalanche,” not to mention his guest verse on Gucci Mane’s “I Get the Bag.” Instead, I would like to highlight some of his standout solo work. 

His only solo album, The Last Rocket, contains a lean 12 tracks and has only two guest appearances: Quavo and Dayytona Fox. The album is adorned with relaxing space-themed trap production that backs Takeoff’s ever-smooth delivery. The Last Rocket certainly doesn’t lack memorable songs: It features laid-back tunes like “Casper” and “Last Memory” alongside boastful anthems like “Vacation” and “She Gon Wink.” 

The album’s opener, “Martian (Intro),” begins with a thematically-fitting rocket launch sample before DJ Durel’s iconic producer tag segues into the beat drop and Takeoff’s familiar braggadocio baritone bars. The track seamlessly transitions into the following song, “She Gon Wink,” kicking off the album with style.

Further into the album, “Infatuation” spotlights Dayytona Fox’s impressive vocals as he serenades his would-be partner with love-tinged platitudes. As Takeoff enters the track, he vows to “show you more love than that double cup of syrup,” which is no small promise, as anyone familiar with Takeoff would know. The song is a marked departure from the proven trap triplet formula that Takeoff and his cohorts popularized, and it serves to showcase his versatility and potential as a solo artist. 

This potential is what made it even more crushing for myself and many others to find that on Nov. 1, Takeoff’s life was cut short over something as trivial as a dice game disagreement. Fellow rappers took to social media to express their dismay and offer condolences. Desiigner — clearly distraught — went live on Instagram and announced that he was quitting rap in response to the news. During the live stream, he repeatedly cried, “Why do we do this?” Lupe Fiasco asked the same question in “ON FAUX NEM” and it is a question we will all find ourselves asking when the next rapper is inevitably killed. 

I’d like to pose another question: When will it end? I am certain people were asking this all the way back in the ‘90s when 2Pac was shot. And again when Biggie was shot. And yet again when Big L was shot. In my lifetime, fans asked it when Pop Smoke was shot, when Young Dolph was shot, when Drakeo the Ruler was stabbed, when PnB Rock was shot and again after Takeoff was shot. And that’s only a fraction of the times that we have wondered “When will it stop?” 

Forgive me if I sound bitter, but Takeoff’s “I’m only nineteen” ad-lib from 2014’s “Copy Me” is no longer just a funny ad-lib to me. Instead it is now a painful reminder of the fact that we need to do better as a society. Talented young men are dying and there are no signs of it stopping any time soon.

While Takeoff’s death was unfair, it is important that we celebrate his life as well. It is my hope that we remember Takeoff’s influence and cherish his iconic performances for years to come. He brought a new energy to the hip hop landscape, and it is not without reason to say that the trap genre would not be as commercially dominant without Takeoff and the rest of Migos’ contributions and influence. So do me a favor: Whenever you’re missing Takeoff, open up your music listening platform of choice and throw on something from The Last Rocket, Culture or whichever album contains your go-to Takeoff verse. Go out, make some memories and live life to Takeoff’s music so that he may live on forever.