Kanye West had multiple chances to drop his eagerly awaited album, Vultures 1, a collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign. Despite several delays and speculation about the motives, the album ultimately launched on a notable date: the 20th anniversary of The College Dropout, the album that launched West to fame.
In an alternate, more ideal world, this influential artist, known for his remarkable talent that is often marred by controversies, would have celebrated The College Dropout's milestone. Perhaps, in line with current trends, he would have embarked on a tour, performing all the beloved tracks from the album, including the groundbreaking Jesus Walks, alongside his other hits, as well as fresh material.
Critics and fans alike hailed the rapper, who now goes by Ye, as a transformative figure, shaping the landscape of hip-hop, pop culture, fashion and beyond. Even the indiscretions and missteps he encountered along the way would have been forgiven. Not even the name "Taylor Swift" would have escaped his lips, even if he wanted to acknowledge her as the 21st-century equivalent of Paul McCartney.
However, the reality we live in is far from ideal, lacking in both soundness and reason. Without delving into psychiatric diagnoses, it appears that Ye himself embodies this state of unwellness.
Vultures 1, for better and mostly for worse, serves as a true reflection of Ye 2024: a figure more talented than most, yet beleaguered by confusion, displaying intelligence alongside maddening pathos, and unfortunately, espousing sickeningly antisemitic views. It is impossible to separate the artist from the art, as Ye imposes his chaotic persona onto his creations.
Unlike his rants on X and romantic exploits, where he bashes Jews, he takes it a step further in the song Vultures, with the line, "How can I be antisemitic? I just fuc*ed a Jewish bi**h."
This... less-than-Victorian lyric serves as a misguided attempt to mimic a line from the song Doja by rapper Central C ("How can I be homophobic? My bitch is gay"). Rather than urgently denouncing antisemitism, Ye seems more interested in exposing the double standards of perception: Central C is viewed as a lovable and endearing rising star, whereas Ye is cast as the devil himself.
However, upon further listening to the remaining songs on the album, it becomes evident why this approach falls short. Ye, like many individuals in his position, revels in playing the fool while simultaneously seeking understanding and even sympathy. He deliberately touches upon various controversies in Vultures, including references to R. Kelly and Bill Cosby, only to later express his longing to survive sleepless nights (Good) and beg for forgiveness ("Beg Forgiveness").
It is worth noting that he collaborates on Beg Forgiveness with Chris Brown, a notorious domestic abuser. In essence, this album might as well have been called "Suicide Squad - Hip-Hop Version."
Similar to the concept of Suicide Squad, the profound nature of Ye, along with his successful alter ego Ty Dolla $ign, and the notable lineup of featured artists including Future, Travis Scott, Playboi Carti and Quavo from Migos, cannot be disregarded.
From a musical perspective, their involvement can be understood. Rather than fearing an indelible stain, which is already questionable in our permissive Western society where Ye assumes the roles of both the instigator and the judge, he offers them opportunities to freely express themselves.
For instance, Fuk Sum exudes a vibrant energy that is not typically found in Scott's solo work. The exceptional track Paperwork, reminiscent of Ye's 2013 release Yeezus, enables Quavo to partake in a more audacious production than anything he has done before.
Even Freddie Gibbs seamlessly fits into Back to Me, a song that stands out as one of the most amusing anomalies in the genre's history. Its grandiose production contrasts with lyrics that predominantly focus on various sexual acts and positions, comprising approximately 99.6% of its content.
Furthermore, Vultures 1 surprises listeners with its unexpected accessibility. Take, for instance, the track Burn, which harkens back to the early days of Ye's career with its playful and enjoyable blend of hip-hop, soul, funk and disco elements.
Another noteworthy track is Carnival, which garnered attention due to the Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne controversy surrounding the unauthorized use of the Black Sabbath sample (along with the inevitable mention of Swift).
Despite its verbally repellent nature, Carnival possesses the potential to become a stadium anthem, partly thanks to its background that bears a resemblance to the popular rap anthem, Mo Bamba by Sheck Wes.
On a more introspective note, Ye successfully collaborates with his daughter, North West, and ex-wife Kim Kardashian on the track Talkin'. However, little North is notably absent in Hoodrat, but instead, we are treated to an unexpected appearance from none other than legendary boxer Mike Tyson (!), who sheds light on why people struggle to understand Ye: "There's no doubt he has freaking mental issues, as most leaders do. It's a crazy thing, this notion of 'I am a god'."
Artistically speaking, Ye is no God, neither is he “still king” as he so proudly declares in his latest song (where he got entangled with Donna Summers' heirs due to a manipulation of her song I Feel Love), neither is he the stormy and brilliant Kanye that we heard back in The College Dropout.
Still, in an age of hip-hop stagnation, where this once trailblazing genre is now trying to reinvent itself after the golden generation of the last decade, Vultures 1 turns out to be too interesting of an album to overlook.