Rife with delays and controversy, a theme familiar to those fluent in Kanye album cycles, Vultures is finally here. Spanning 16 songs and 56 minutes, here’s a breakdown of Ye & Ty Dolla $ign’s long-awaited collaborative album.
Kanye & Ty Go Hard Electronic on Vultures 1
Since Jesus is King, a religious throughline is carried through all of Ye’s music. Though it doesn’t entirely evaporate on his 13th album, an electronic, hip-house lean largely replaces it, a precedent established by his Yeezus-era work yet no doubt amplified by Ty Dolla $ign’s own inclinations. Hedonistic would not be an off-base descriptor for the content writ large. Many of the songs ode to everything enjoyable in as much excess as feasible. It’s a thematically consistent direction when combined with that heavy electronic production. “Stars” and “Keys to My Life,” the project’s openers, are among the few exceptions. They provide a throwback soul palette cleanser before entering the meat of the project.
“Paid” is where things really kick off, and is one of the more successful pieces in tackling the core formula. It’s sparse yet undeniably energetic. The minimal synths and repeated Kanye chorus almost lull you to sleep before Ty steals the show in the back half. “Talking” right after does the same, with woozy reverb effects and samples making this a closer comp to something off of James Blake’s Playing Robots into Heaven than anything on Donda.
The Mixed Lyrical Bag of Ye’s 13th Album
On a more critical note, the (musical) elephant in the room when discussing any Kanye project post-The Life of Pablo is his lyrical quality. While still more than capable of holding his own on choice occasions, the MC has gradually declined since that 2016 release. It’s a trend compounded by the beta-version release strategy also constant in that period, where some of the 16s pushed out in an official quality are clearly recognizable as semi-placeholders, meant to be finished or fleshed out at a later date that just doesn’t come by the time the song is made public.
Given that, the features enlisted often outshine both artists from a pure rap standpoint. Freddie Gibbs on “Back to Me” does so decisively, lending a strong contender to “verse of the year” discussions with an XL-sized verse where his penchant for breakneck flows is on full display. “Do It,” just a few songs after is a more hands-down proposition, where unreleased vocals from Nipsey Hussle make their debut. With all the emotional weight that this carries, it’s not entirely Ty or Kanye’s fault that they take a backseat. And of course, North West makes her first on-mic appearance, a heartwarming moment in the early goings of the project.
More than anything, Kanye’s ear for production shines through plenty in the tracklist for Vultures. “Carnival” is one of the best beats in recent memory, explosive and evolving over its runtime. In a similar yet converse vein, “Good (Don’t Die)” hits on an ethereal atmosphere. It plays right into Dolla $ign’s greatest strengths.
A Note On The Extended Leadup for Kanye & Vultures
While your personal mileage may vary generally on the question, the concept of “separating the art from the artist” becomes inescapable on the closer, “King.” It is a response to all the “extracurriculars” that marked the leadup, but is most expressed in the refrain. “Crazy, bipolar, antisemite / And I’m still the king.” Say what you want about the man, but, largely, the claims he makes on the song are true—paparazzi still fight like hell for a glimpse, he still sells out stadiums, and for many, his releases are appointment listening.
But the gap is certainly closing between what people can stomach and the quality of the music. When it’s “I Am A God” PR moments that are followed by some of the greatest hip-hop albums ever, for better or worse, the general calculus is that things get overlooked. Vultures is an enjoyable listen. It will no doubt chart some songs. But a pantheon project it is not, and at least for this writer, the pill gets increasingly harder to swallow under the guise of “every genius is crazy.”