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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

OPINION: Kanye is the ultimate music “vulture”

A critique on “Vultures 1”
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Keira Lee / Hilltop Views
Is Kanye West the king of sampling or a musical vulture leeching from other artists’ work? With his controversies of copyright infringement surrounding the release of the album, I’d venture to say West believes he’s untouchable. My argument: just make a new beat.

Kanye West: the much revered, often recognized musical and lyrical genius and perhaps one of the most controversial artists of our generation. He recently released a collaborative album with Ty Dolla $ign last month. Together, their artist name is ¥$, (or Ye ‘n’ Dollar), which features both the Japanese currency Yen and the American dollar. The album currently sits at number three on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart. The song “CARNIVAL” has sat on the Billboard charts for three weeks and is second to Beyonce’s “Texas Hold ‘Em.”

His music however, has taken the backseat in social discussions of him after his anti-semetic rhetoric got him cut from a plethora of large contracts with large brands, like Adidas and Balenciaga, and blacklisted from many people’s minds.

Personally, before all of his negative public statements, I was a huge fan. One can’t critique him without acknowledging his sole impact on the music industry. My dad was my first introduction to his music, and “Graduation” was one of the first albums he made me listen to in its entirety. So, when I listen to West’s old music, I think of my dad and riding in the passenger seat racing down winding roads through Texas, bobbing my head to West’s lyrical flow. I’ve listened to all of his albums, with “Graduation” and his self-titled, “Ye,” being albums I still listen to to this day. However, I listen to my music on CD’s –- with no way of him making royalties off of my listening. Streaming doesn’t have a huge impact on how many royalties an artist makes — in fact it’s only about $0.003 to $0.005 per stream on average for Spotify. But still, I try to avoid aiding artists who make controversial decisions like West has.

 “VULTURES,” however, is riddled with controversial lyrics and a plethora of samples. My critique stems from his usage of these. 

The craft (and woes) of sampling

Many of his songs use a production technique called sampling, where artists take a pre-existing song and remix it to create a new sound. West is no stranger to this. However, his use of this method caught my attention on TikTok when listeners discovered West’s “I Wonder” had sampled Labi Siffre’s “My Song.” It was especially interesting as the lyrics of Siffre’s “My Song” read: “This is my song / and no one can take it away.” It is quite ironic that West heard this sentiment and continued to sample it. I will say “I Wonder” is an absolute banger, so how awful was the sampling really? 

Notably, the release of “Vultures 1” was almost immediately met with backlash by Ozzy Osbourne, an iconic rock and metal artist, who critiqued West for sampling one of his songs on the album without his permission. West, who has been dropped from all of his previous record labels, such as Def Jam Recordings and Sony Music Publishing, now functions under his own label YZY. Yes, the same site as his infamous Yeezy shoes. He has complete liberty to go back and record or reupload songs. The song has since been updated to no longer include the snippet.

But where is the line drawn? Is sampling a creative method, or is it just ripping off original artists? Does it bring them notoriety, or does it completely overshadow them? 

Practically every song on the album either samples another song or a form of media, like movies and interviews. “STARS,” the intro to the album, samples Dijon’s “Good Luck.” “KEYS TO MY LIFE” samples the Brand Nubian song “Slow Down”.” “PAID” samples Jodeci’s “Get On Up,” but my favorite part of the song was India Love’s outro. Some of the lyrics reference The Police’s song, “Roxanne.” West’s daughter, North West, features on the track “TALKING,” and the beginning of the track samples a cheerleading chant from the ‘Wolfpack’ team of Wilkes-Barre Area High School during a Stomp and Shake competition. I will give West some credit for this one, however, I wonder how the original ladies feel. Personally, I’d feel entitled to a little compensation.

“BACK TO ME,” my least favorite song of the album, samples the line “and beautiful, big titty, butt-naked women just don’t fall out of the sky, you know?” from the 1999 comedy film “Dogma.” I mean, sure, sampling from a movie is quite interesting, but the execution is annoying and repetitive. West’s verse basically just repeats the line, adding a few other lines, but nothing of interest. If your argument is that “Dogma” is a classic comedic movie and West is a genius for sampling it, I’m sorry to say that his attempt falls flat. 

“HOODRAT,” from what I can tell, doesn’t sample any other songs, and seems to be the only track to accomplish this. However, the name does reference West’s hit, “Runaway” where he famously says: “See, I could have me a good girl / And still be addicted to them hood rats.” He also references “Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” off his album “The Life of Pablo” when he said, “Jesus on the main line, brand new t-shirt / Don’t make me stain mine.” Is it a sign of greatness to sample your past songs, or a lack of ingenuity? 

The titular song, “VULTURES” doesn’t shy away from samples either; the outro samples 2 Eleven’s feature on Three 6 Mafia’s “Pimpin & Robbin”. For “CARNIVAL”, West had recruited a group from Inter Milan– an Italian professional football (soccer) team to record the chanting throughout the song. West sampled a guitar riff from his own song, “Hell Of A Life”, after Osbourne’s discontent of sampling “Iron Man”. Sure, it’s an iconic riff, but could he not think of anything else? 

While the rest of the album shows West dabbling in continuous sampling, there is a moment where this experimentation came back to bite him. He ran into some legal troubles concerning copyright infringement after sampling Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” in his track “GOOD (DON’T DIE).” The song is currently not available on Spotify, but speculatively I will say it is most likely due to copyright issues.  

An album riddled with controversial lyrics 

On the track “STARS,” West attempts to quell his anti-semetic past with the line, “keep a few Jews on the staff now.” Because, of course, hiring a few people who don’t align with your religious views completely bars you from being religiously discriminative (That’s sarcasm, by the way). He follows the same sentiment in “VULTURES,” saying “how I’m anti-Semitic? I just fucked a Jewish bitch”. He also references the major school shooting of Columbine in 1999 with the line, “this ain’t Columbine, but we came in with the trenches.” None of these mentions seem really necessary. There is no need to reference school shootings in a rap song.

Another controversial line in this album occurs after the bridge of “FUK SMN.” West says: “I don’t care who you fucked, you a virgin to me / You a perv and to me, baby perfect to me.” The concept of virginity is riddled throughout this album, and linking it by also saying “perv” and then referencing the pet name “baby” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t like it. 

A notable moment in the album where West dips his toes into controversy happens in the song “BURN” when he brings up both the musician R. Kelly and the brand Balenciaga –- presumably for their similar controversies involving minors. The lyric reads: “Man, the world gone mad / Heard R. Kelly in the next Balenciaga ad.” In 2022, Balenciaga caught major attention after featuring an ad campaign with children in bondage gear. R.Kelly has a history riddled with both crimes and allegations toward minors and sexual abuse. Survivors of his assault released a documentary series with Netflix titled “Surviving R. Kelly,” detailing their experiences of mental and sexual abuse. In this song, West makes a direct dig at both the brand and the musician with this lyrical claim.

Lastly, the song “BEG FORGIVENESS” features Chris Brown, whose music I have completely avoided since his physical violence towards Rihanna in 2009 to which he pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge. I never condone that type of behavior, nor will I endorse others to listen to this song or any song that features Brown. 

My final thoughts

Overall, the album just doesn’t do it for me. Riddled with problematic and sometimes offensive lyrics, West seems to be pushing exactly how far he can go. Additionally, West samples either a song or other form of media in basically every track of the album, leaving me to question his ingenuity. In my opinion, West is pretty much past his peak as an artist. At the end of the day, his music will go down in history akin to how his reputation has gone down in flames.

View Comments (6)
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About the Contributor
Hailey Womack, News Editor
Hailey Womack is a junior English major with a minor in Journalism & Digital Media. This is her third semester with Hilltop Views and her first year as News Editor. She's very passionate about the Austin area, as she has been a native all of her life. When not reading romantic period books, she enjoys playing basketball.

Comments (6)

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  • £4£Mar 23, 2024 at 5:36 pm

    NOBODY CARES THAT YOU EQUATE ARTS WORTH TO THE CREATORS PERSONALITY. STOP TELLING THE READER ABOUT YOUR MORAL COMPASS IN LITERALLY EVERY PARAGRAPH. JUST DONT INCLUDE OR REVIEW IT.

    Reply
  • N

    No NameMar 23, 2024 at 1:09 pm

    It’s ironic that you think the cheerleader he sampled deserves compensation, yet point out how you avoid paying for Wests music. So, they deserve to be paid, but he doesn’t? If you’re really serious about them being compensated, you’d gladly pay for the music. Also, Kanyes whole verse in STARS is so deep that you washed over everything accept the line with the word Jew in it. Did you not even realize its called stars because of the star of David? “We gonna go where the stars at”(the old testament) “and beyond that”(new testament/Jesus Christ). You need to understand something if you plan to critique art – people who aren’t controversial or transparent aren’t artists.

    Reply
  • K

    KanyeMar 20, 2024 at 12:34 pm

    Bro has 24 grammys and people still hating SMH

    Reply
  • J

    JpMar 19, 2024 at 2:57 pm

    Kanye was one of my favourite artists. Even his new songs sound cool but the lyrics and person Kayne is today, I’ll have to pass. And just listen to good ethical artists. Thank you for writing this article bringing to light the bad ye.

    Reply
  • D

    DSMar 19, 2024 at 12:32 am

    You got too much time on your hands. All that Kanye hating was…..

    Reply
  • J

    JackMar 18, 2024 at 8:26 pm

    It must be a good project if you think it’s bad!

    Reply