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Review: Ye and Ty Dolla Sign’s ‘Vultures’ needs less Ye

By Arman Saxena     2/22/24 11:11pm

Review: ★½

Top Track: “Burn”

There are few artists who garner the level of passion that Ye, born Kanye West, does — he has diehard fans and relentless haters. Practically every artist in the mainstream rap scene has been influenced by Ye in a major way, and his signature extends far beyond hip hop. 

Since “Donda 2” was released on a Stem Player in 2022, “Vultures” is Ye’s first proper album release after 2021’s “Donda.” That album and 2019’s “Jesus is King” were spiritual and deeply Christian projects that were released with no explicit tracks. While Ye’s newest, a collaboration with artist Ty Dolla Sign, retains the religious content apparent throughout his music, the album revels in a garish vulgarity not seen so prominently in his work since 2016’s “The Life of Pablo.”

With “Vultures,” Ye is done trying to gain his audience’s sympathy and leans into boastful, hedonistic excess. It’s a project from someone who knows that he’s too big to fail and that he’ll always have an audience, no matter his antisemitism, misogyny or general insufferableness. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Ye is frequently the worst part of his own album. 

“Back to Me” is a prime example of this. Ty Dolla Sign’s chorus is satisfyingly melodic and is a promising opening to the song, but then Ye’s verse starts — and, wow, is it bad. Ye spends his verse repeating many of the same lyrics, and none of them are good. His staccato flow doesn’t fit the beat, and his insufferable refrain that only serves to dehumanize women is frustrating. Freddie Gibbs brings his all with the song’s last verse, though, delivering energetic bars that should’ve been the track’s only rap verse. 

This trend of Ye sapping his own tracks continues on “Carnival,” one of the album’s highlights. Featuring Rich the Kid and Playboi Carti, “Carnival” is an industrial trap banger with rage-esque production. The chanting choir that opens this song immediately grabs the listener’s attention, and verses from Rich the Kid and Ty Dolla Sign follow. While their bars aren’t great, they mostly retain the song’s energy with their flows. 

The section that follows however, sees Ye referencing R. Kelly and Bill Cosby, rapping grossly uninspired — and just plain gross — lines like “Anybody pissed off, gotta make em’ drink the urine.” Thankfully, Playboi Carti comes to the track’s rescue with a performance that perfectly matches the atmosphere and is one of the project’s best moments. 

The album’s production is generally good, with “Burn,” “Carnival” and “Do It” standing out as the project’s highlights. “Burn” sounds like a Ye song from the mid-2000s, and while the song’s vibrant mix of soul, boom bap and R&B doesn’t really mesh with the rest of the album’s nocturnal trap production, the song is still a pleasant diversion. “Do It” is the album’s party banger that interlaces a fun Miami Bass beat with an orchestral string sample. Featuring an introduction from Nipsey Hussle, melodic vocals from Ty Dolla Sign and a competent verse from Ye, “Do It” is pure fun. 

However, the album is filled with enough production missteps that will likely leave listeners confused. Touches like the “Roxanne” interpolation on “Paid,” the intro samples on “Hoodrat” and the high-pitched vocal sample that deflates the momentum a minute into “Fuk Sumn” are just a few examples of eclectic sonic choices that seem strange and abrasive for the sole sake of being strange and abrasive. Ye’s public persona in recent years has been characterized by pure shock in the place of substance, and this album epitomizes that.

If listeners aren’t convinced already, “Vultures” should serve as an affront to anyone who still plans to take any of Ye’s future projects seriously. While features and inspired production choices keep this album listenable, “Vultures” is too unfocused, too lyrically bland and too damn obnoxious to be anything but ignored.

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