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Offset drew inspiration from Michael Jackson going solo

By Peter Larsen, The Orange County Register
Published: April 6, 2024, 6:03am

Actor and rapper Donald Glover once compared the rap group Migos to the Beatles.

But Offset, one of the three members of Migos, is taking his inspiration these days from a different pop icon: the late Michael Jackson.

“I was just a big fan of him,” says the 32-year-old Offset, who was born Kiari Cephus, as he headlines his first solo tour. “I loved the way how his videos were shot. It was always a storyline, or always a different type of character that he would be in for his videos, especially when I was young.

“But as I got older, I learned to appreciate the skill set that he put in, and the extra grind and the work and the practice,” Offset continues. “He envisioned himself being way bigger, even though he was already big. On my album, I’m already in a nice place where I’m big and stuff like that. But I still see more for myself and creatively challenge myself to take it to the next level, even though I’m on a high level.”

On the cover of Offset’s second solo album, “Set It Off,” released in October, the rapper is seen falling from an upside-down cityscape, dressed in clothing reminiscent of Jackson in his “Beat It” video. In Offset’s video for the single “Fan,” he wears facsimiles of outfits Jackson wore in his “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal” videos — and he breaks out some of those videos’ iconic dance moves, too.

“He came from a group where there’s a family,” Offset says of similarities he sees between himself and Jackson. Migos was a trio made up of cousins Quavo and the late Takeoff, with Offset close enough they often said they were all cousins, the Jackson 5, of course, were Michael and his brothers, including Jermaine, who gets name-checked in the lyrics of one of the songs on Offset’s new record.

“I felt like it fell into my story,” he continues. “His first solo album was ‘Off the Wall’ and mine is ‘Set It Off.’ … The vibe on it’s like growing up and developing and becoming a better artist.

“So I just took that as my favorite artist, and I used it as inspiration for my whole album and my rollout,” Offset says. “I just felt like I was just in that bag.”

In an interview edited for length and clarity, Offset did not talk about his on-and-off marriage to rapper Cardi B, with whom he has two children. Instead, he focused on his plans for the current tour, the ongoing pain he feels for the death of Takeoff in a November 2022 shooting, the new vulnerability he’s used in his lyrics, and the importance of good vibes with guest artists.

You’re getting ready to head out on your first headlining tour. What’s it feel like to finally be here?

I’m very excited, man. I’m ready to get out there in front of the people. And do what I do best. Put a lot of thought and creativity into this. So I’m super-excited, man.

It took a couple of years to make this record. How did it come together and what were your goals with it?

As I was putting this one together, I was just thinking to come up with a new sound. So that’s why it took me two years. I wanted to develop a new me, a new version of me that it could be presented as just me. I wanted to see what was going on in the music scene and pay attention to that. So I can see what’s going on and what’s not going on anymore.

I also work with different producers so that I can create a new sound for myself, so I didn’t sound like before. Because I’ve been in this for a long time. So I just wanted to create a new identity as Offset, man, so I can have a storyline people could fall in love with and relate to.

What’s different now as Offset, the solo artist, versus the sound that you had as part of Migos?

A little bit more edgy, a little bit more artistic, more creative, more planned out. As far as the music, always inspired from day one with my group, can’t (disrespect) that. But it’s just more developed. And also challenging myself to make different records, like ‘Worth It.’ instead of me just making a whole lot of club bangers I wanted to make different vibes for different crowds. Win over the women crowd, and also to keep my core base.

The process of everything was just a beautiful process of digging deep and having personal time and your own thought process to see your plan out, and to see what you gonna put together. I like the freedom of doing everything myself.

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I want to ask you about a couple of specific songs on the album I particularly like. ‘Blame It On Set,’ when that’s played live, the crowd’s going to go wild singing the chorus.

‘Blame It On Set, it’s just like putting everything on my shoulders and I’m about to (mess) this up. That’s what the song was saying. It’s like put everything, put all the pressure on me and watch me (mess) it up.

‘Night Vision’ is a more introspective one, where you address missing Takeoff and how hard that’s been since his death. You open up on it and share your feelings.

My brother Metro Boomin produced it. We locked in. And I just wanted to show a little vulnerability, show people that I’m actually a human being. My thought process on how I love my brother. I miss the old days, and how much I cherish the old days, and that I’m all going hard to dig deep to represent the fullest at the highest level.

Making that record was, it took me longer than usually it takes me to make a record. Because sometimes I try to guard my feelings and guard certain things. But on that on that song, just the vibe and the beat had that kind of melodic dark, but there’s still brightness to it. It just put me in that pocket and I just expressed myself on it. My mood and just missing the old days.

You mentioned Michael Jackson had to challenge himself to go beyond his first level of success with the Jackson 5. What’s been challenging for you as you’ve gone from Migos to become a solo artist?

Just having control of everything. Performing. You don’t have that cushion, that extra breath because it’s somebody else’s part and that extra time to rest. Or even that extra energy bouncing off each other. So you have to create your own world when you keep the energy at a high level consistently by yourself.

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