When Quavo Huncho dropped last month, it was everything Migos fans feared it would be: a bloated, tedious album that did nothing for the culture. No amount of features could cover up just how lifeless it was and how little Quavo seemed to care. The question remained if Takeoff, “the quiet Migo,” would be able to deliver on his own solo effort, or if his individual legacy was doomed to an eternal litany of “left off ‘Bad and Boujee’” cracks.

The Last Rocket may not end up launching Takeoff into the stratosphere and leave his uncle and cousin in his dust, but it’s also not held back by any sort of burden to be on top. Takeoff keeps the running time brief and the guest list scanty, and he ends up with something unlike any Migos project to date: a galactic canvas that actually lets us get up close and personal with someone who refuses to be an afterthought.

You’re still going to get your fill of ad-libs (including “Momma!”) and wealth boasts, but Takeoff avoids making this just a diversion en route to Culture III. The familiar tropes are sensibly peppered in. He clearly embraces his membership while also wanting to try more. No matter how much he impressed on Culture II, a trap quasi-space odyssey wasn’t going to happen unless he made it so.

Starting off with a space launch and ending back to Earth (with audio from Felix Baumgartner’s legendary space jump), The Last Rocket isn’t a rap opera, but it’s as close to a concept album as any of the Migos have made up to this point. Despite its title and incredible artwork, Takeoff seems more earthbound than space-bound, with the wonders of the galaxy all around him yet always out of reach. ‘Casper’ is ostensibly centered around Rolls Royce fetishization, but the emotional crux is in the simplicity of his desire to look at the stars, with the flute and piano on the beat creating further cosmic wonder as he finds time to eulogize his grandmother and discuss his sexual exploits.

The further you go into The Last Rocket, the more space looks to be not a place to explore, but one to escape to. Takeoff narrates a life numbed by codeine and pills. “Woke up this morning, can't remember nothing,” he slurredly confesses on ‘Last Memory’ as a synth loop mews on the beat. His flow shifts from marble-mouthed to clear as day, like when he raps "I go to space with the stars, might smoke a blunt with my pilot. Saturn, Moon, Earth, and Mars. NASA takeoff with the rocket.” Just knowing he has a temporary way out, via his own personal rocket, is enough to keep him going. On ‘Vacation,’ he needs a vacation from his vacation from his vacation. His thick drawl is distinct but he’s also talented enough as a rapper to know how to reveal different shades of it.

If there was ever a Migos-related album that’s best heard in isolation rather than blasting out of a car stereo, it’s this one. Few of these tracks are likely to light up the singles charts, and the way they tend to segue into one another would make it a shame to split them apart. But if you’re going to bet on any track, put your money on 'Infatuation,' a soulful number featuring the mysterious and immensely talented Daytonna Fox on singing duties. Takeoff doesn’t phone in a romantic verse. On an album full of memorable performances, like the syllabic aerobics on ‘Soul Plane’ (“Don't need no Twitter or no Insta for no stamp of verification. That coupe look like a caterpillar, came and pulled it straight from Haiti. Put that cookie in rotation, hotboxin', no ventilation.”), he pulls through the most here. It also helps that he comes across as a true romantic: “Them material things, I don't care about the fame. I miss you so much that I went and tatted your name. Let me be your drug, tell me when you feel in pain. And you can be my stripper baby. No, I ain't ashamed.” While it might read corny on paper and lacks any kind of mindblowing turn of phrase or rhyme, it warms the heart.

Emotionally effective in other ways are ‘Lead The Wave,’ where he gets the last laugh over a doubting schoolteacher and the album-ending ‘Bruce Wayne,’ where he throws shade at those who were bumping Migos singles without being able to name the group and admits to the nerves he felt when he first started performing, relating them to ongoing romantic anxiety as the specter of substances continues to haunt him. (“When I pour up, I don't wanna speak or conversate with you. I know I told you lies before, but right now, I'ma tell the truth.”)

Migos might be associated with saturation more than any group not named Brockhampton, but The Last Rocket deserves to be recognized as a top-tier project in their canon. Not only has Takeoff made a layered and thought-provoking album, but he also accomplished it with minimal assistance. In fact, one of the few moments of sag happens when one of his fellow Migos takes the mic (Quavo on ‘She Gon Wink’). He hasn’t crafted the second coming of Deltron 3030 but a contemplative and diverse delight. We can only hope Offset’s impending solo debut is just as good.