The release of Vultures 1, like all of Kanye West’s albums these days, is delayed and surrounded by controversy. The latest being a self-inflicted issue that has caused ill-will, resulting in West losing his record label and an estimated $1.5 billion after Adidas ended their partnership with him. According to a post that has since been deleted on Instagram, West is also unable to book a tour due to venues blacklisting him because of his antisemitic remarks.
This time, the controversy and delay seem to be intertwined. The supporting cast list for Vulture highlights that there are still many notable figures who are happy to collaborate with him, such as Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Timbaland, and James Blake. However, it appears that part of the reason for the album’s failure to be released on the scheduled dates is due to other artists refusing to give clearance for their appearances and samples. Nicki Minaj’s reluctance to have her featured track on the album was attributed to its age of three years, and it was clear why Ozzy Osbourne wanted to distance himself from the project. His manager and wife, Sharon, stated that he is a disrespectful antisemite and that he had messed with the wrong person this time. She further added, “The motherfucker’s a pig.”
As usual, the music is difficult to hear due to the loud noise accompanying it. However, if you listen closely, you can discern an album that is an improvement from Donda released in 2021. It still has its flaws, causing one to question what the upcoming volumes of Vultures will sound like. Is it worth paying for if the album features lackluster tracks such as the title track and Hoodrat, which initially had a chaotic and relentless sample but dragged on for too long? West’s verses are weak and filled with feeble sex rhymes and unfunny puns, making Vultures the perfect album for those who enjoy that style. The quality of his lyrics is further highlighted by a standout guest verse from Indiana MC Freddie Gibbs on Back to Me, who cleverly raps “Just turned a bird bitch to my ex like I was Elon.”
However, there is a greater abundance of good concepts in this album compared to its previous overblown and aimless version. This is largely due to the inclusion of Ty Dolla $ign, who surpasses West as a vocalist – as demonstrated by West’s unsettling performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody at Glastonbury without Auto-Tune. Additionally, Ty Dolla $ign serves as a cohesive force on an album that drastically shifts in style, ranging from the distorted complexities of Paperwork to the melodically vibrant and catchy Burn, which harkens back to the style that initially propelled West to fame.
The inclusion of a song that could fit into Kanye West’s first album suggests that there is a recurring feeling throughout Vultures. Many of the album’s musical highlights seem to be driven by West’s desire for a major hit, perhaps in response to the narrative that his talent has declined as his fame has grown. There may also be a cynical belief that achieving commercial success can erase past controversies in the music industry. This can be heard in songs like Burn, Do It, and Problematic, where Ty Dolla $ign’s vocals soar over catchy beats. Carnival also showcases this desire for a massive crowd-pleasing anthem, with a prominent choral sample and a nod to West’s earlier album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
However, there are times in Vultures where one may question if West truly wishes for people to overlook the surrounding controversy. The most generous explanation for his recent behavior is that he is a severely ill individual who has been influenced by some of the most despicable individuals, such as white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Another interpretation is that he is a provocative figure, seeking to incite a response, which he certainly achieved, causing more than just online backlash and resulting in a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, including the defacement of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries with the phrase “Kanye was right.”
According to the edgelord theory, there is ample evidence to support it here. It appears that the cover design has been altered to no longer resemble that of the controversial black metal band Burzum, but there are still instances where Kanye West seems to backtrack on his recent apology to the Jewish community through distasteful jokes and boasts. For example, the title track suggests that he cannot be antisemitic because he recently slept with a Jewish woman, and on Carnival, he jokingly compares himself to disgraced figures R Kelly and Bill Cosby. Additionally, on the song King, he raps “antisemite / still the king.” This behavior is not surprising but rather deeply disheartening, as it seems to come from a man who believes he can get away with it because his album is so exceptional that it overshadows any criticism. However, despite some strong musical moments on Vultures, West is incorrect on both counts.