Should you even listen to Kanye’s new album when it eventually does drop?
OPINION: Kanye has associated himself with antisemitism so deeply that it’s now part of his brand, and on his new album, "Vultures" — a collab with Ty Dolla $ign — he doesn't appear to be backing down.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
So Kanye is supposed to be officially dropping a new album sometime soon. Yep, here we go. It’s called “Vultures,” and it’s a collab with Ty Dolla $ign. I think it will finally be released on Dec. 31. The album isn’t yet on any streaming platform, but a lot of its songs are on YouTube and the listening parties he’s done are posted, too, so let’s talk about this album. Wait, a conversation about Kanye’s music? I remember those!
Hold on a second there, sport. We can’t just have a conversation about Kanye’s music that ignores his politics. Is it even OK to listen to a Kanye album at this point? After his antisemitism press tour where he made sure to tell multiple interviewers that he respects and admires Germany’s worst leader ever, a lot of people said they could no longer deal with Kanye. I was one of them — I said we really shouldn’t even be wearing his sneakers anymore. Kanye has associated himself with antisemitism so deeply that it’s part of his brand now and embracing him feels like saying you’re OK with antisemitism. It’s like people said about Trump — not all of his voters are racist but none of them saw his racism as a dealbreaker so what does that say about them? Liking Kanye, at this point, doesn’t mean you’re antisemitic but his antisemitism isn’t making you run away. I can’t just be a fan of someone who’s overtly antisemitic.
I can’t listen to Kanye’s music now without being distracted by the antisemitism as well as the MAGA-ism and the “slavery was a choice”-ism. His entire political ideology is offensive and disgusting. It’s hard to just hear the music as music without thinking about how awful he is. It’s not enough to say “Just separate the art from the artist” or “I’m not political so I don’t care.” Kanye has drawn a line in the sand; he supports Hitler, and modern Nazis are emboldened by that. Supporting him normalizes antisemitism. It says fans will just shrug it off. Even though his antisemitism is extremely dangerous — the Anti-Defamation League has identified over 32 separate acts of antisemitism that are directly linked to Kanye’s public comments.
If there had been an apology and an attempt to change course then we could have a different conversation, but instead, in a world where “Ye is right” is a neo-Nazi rallying cry, he’s now doubling down. Imagine that: He sees his name being used by neo-Nazis to say that he is an ally, and his response is to keep going. On one of his new songs, he questions how he could be antisemitic because he just slept with a Jewish woman. What? This is just dumb but it also signals that he isn’t backing down. He’s also, with this new album, giving us a symbol — a double-headed eagle — that’s totally giving German nationalism vibes. The album cover art also seems to be aligned with Nazism. He’s also showing up in public wearing Klan robes. What are you doing, man? Anthony Fontano referred to all of this as “Weird, white supremacist breadcrumbing.”
I still don’t know if Kanye really, truly believes in Nazism or its leader, but I feel like he wants to use things like Nazism and MAGAism and anti-Blackness to troll us. He wants to get our attention in any way he can, even if it means saying hateful things and siding with hateful people. I think, deep down, Kanye has always been like a real-life Eric Cartman from “South Park” who thinks everything is all about him and who will throw a tantrum if he doesn’t get what he wants and will say racist or antisemitic things without batting an eye.
That said, for me the question becomes, can I truly hear his album over all the noise that he’s created? I don’t think I could listen to a Kanye album multiple times, but I love hip-hop so much and I am so curious about its journey that I feel compelled to listen to it once. But that raises a question: Is it possible for this album to be so good that it would challenge my feelings? Like, if he dropped “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” right now that would mess me up. I might become a hypocrite, listening to it in my car when I’m alone and through my headphones when no one is around, while publicly bashing him. I’d be on MSNBC saying “Kanye is an antisemitic cretin” while also up in the barbershop talking about, “But that album is fire, yo.” That would probably be a difficult moment in my life, but I could see it. I could see listening to “MBDTF” and saying “I’m sorry, my Jewish sisters and brothers, but this album is too good!”
Unsurprisingly, “Vultures” does not present such a challenge. I listened to it. I wouldn’t want to listen to it again even if Kanye were a choirboy, a progressive warrior and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. “Vultures” is wack. This should not come as a surprise — Kanye is on a three-album losing streak. “Ye” was trash, “Jesus Is King” was trash and “Donda” was trash. The man hasn’t dropped a hot solo album since “The Life of Pablo.” That was a long time ago.
“Vultures” is something I never thought Kanye could be: boring. The hooks are lazy, the samples are blah and his rhymes are unforgettable. He’s not witty or funny or confronting the state of his life; he’s mostly just talking smack about money. Yawn. The album does not have any sort of thematic cohesiveness, and it doesn’t have a compelling sonic template. It’s a snore. When he made “MBDTF,” he was coming off of embarrassing himself at the MTV Awards by interrupting Taylor Swift. Then President Obama called him a jackass. His back was to the wall — he needed a great album just to have people like him again. And he delivered a classic. But this time, with his back to the wall because the whole world is hating on him, Kanye whiffed. He dropped a terrible album, his fourth wack album in a row. I guess we can see why he would turn to trolling — he can no longer make music that’ll command our attention on its own.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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