There’s no way to discuss Quavo’s “Rocket Power” without discussing Takeoff. The album is dedicated to him and if you didn’t already know Quavo was blood related to his fellow Migos rapper — they were uncle and nephew. His death last November is still upsetting almost a year later. The indictment of his alleged killer means there’s a chance justice will be done, but it won’t bring Takeoff back. Quavo will be haunted by his memory for the rest of his life.

“Lost my nephew to gunplay and smoke shit
Lost my dog to some petty ass hoe shit”

I wouldn’t have blamed Quavo for retiring from the rap game. Even if he was already working on this album when his nephew was killed, it would have been entirely fair for him to leave it unfinished and just walk away. How do you go on after losing someone that close to you in a senseless act of violence? I’m going to make a blanket statement here and if it doesn’t cover you feel free to disagree — if you’re reading this you love rap music and hip-hop culture. It matters to you. It’s part of your heart. Every year we take more body blows that disrupt the rhythm of our heartbeat. When one rap star after another gets murdered and nothing seems to change it’s fair to ask how much more you can take before it hurts too much to go on.

Even though Quavo is hurting more than any of us he still found a way to finish “Rocket Power” and even include his late nephew on songs like “Patty Cake.” The undeniable chemistry that “Unc and Phew” had together was part of what made Migos so infectious. Although it was widely discussed that the two had a falling out with Offset, it appears that Takeoff’s death squashed the beef, as Quavo and Offset reunited to pay tribute to him. What this means for the future of Migos is still uncertain, but at least it leaves open the possibility of collaboration down the road. Notably though Offset is not on any of the 18 tracks (51 minutes and change) of this album.

Long time friend and fellow Georgia rapper Future is here though on “Turn Yo Clic Up” and “Back Where It Begins.” Currently incarcerated rap star Young Thug is on “Focused.” It’s peak irony for me that multiple people have pointed out that he was jailed on RICO charges by the same Fulton County District Attorney who also filed them against… well let’s not speak the Devil’s name lest we accidentally invoke his appearance. All I’m going to say is 14th Amendment and move on. The only other guests of note are Hunxho and BabyDrill on “Stain.”

This means the focus of Quavo’s “Rocket Power” is on him — as it should be. Too many solo albums leave their billed star feeling like a featured guest on their own project, loading up so many cameo appearances that you wonder where the top act is. “All Eyez On Me but I’m no Tupac” quips Quavo on “11.11.” Hell I’d expect him to be quoting from ‘Pac at this point, seeing “Death Around the Corner” everywhere he looks. As for Quavo’s style it’s difficult to add more to the discussion than I have on previous releases. He’s a singing rapper but he’s not in that category of emcees who do it to disguise a lack of anything to say. A long list of producer like Pooh Beatz, Murda Beatz, Bnyx, DJ Durel and Buddah Bless go out of their way to make sure you hear every word.

It could be due to his nephew’s passing or it could be that I’m just now picking up on this aspect of his personality on a solo album, but Quavo doesn’t strike me as obsessed with violence like people in his demographic or younger. You can’t go so far as to call him a conscious or a political rapper, but you’re not left with the feeling he’s out to blast the opps in every song either. Most of what Quavo puts down on “Rocket Power” is right down to the title track is good vibes. “I was 17, kicking doors bright and early/Daddy had to take to my favorite Auntie Shirley/I told my momma that she never had to worry/Three Migos stooges, it was Larry, Moe and Curly.” He’s a storyteller. Those stories involve trapping, and at times that calls for self-defense, but he’s not instigating beefs.

That brings us full circle back to Takeoff though. I’m going to make another blanket statement here — none of us were there when he got shot. If you were you don’t need to tell me, because (1.) I don’t want or need to know that and (2.) you should probably save your info for the trial to bring his killer to justice. We don’t know what exactly caused the incident. There are plenty of theories but we have to rely on the prosecutor to go beyond theories to facts and put the person who ended Takeoff’s life behind bars. Dedicating “Rocket Power” to him and featuring him on tracks is heartwarming but can’t bring him back to the physical essence. As we mourn his passing and enjoy Quavo’s album we need to do more about the continued violence in rap than pay it lip service. I keep saying every year that this shit needs to change… but it never does.

Quavo :: Rocket Power
7.5Overall Score