Kanye West, the contentious artist and provocateur now known as Ye, appeared onstage in Miami after midnight on Tuesday wearing a pointed black hood that resembled a Ku Klux Klan robe — and the 10-year-old artwork for his song “Black Skinhead” — as the musician previewed his first new album since a string of incendiary and antisemitic comments threatened to tank his career in music and fashion last year.
The listening event, which was dubbed a “rave” and streamed online amid technical difficulties, teased “Vultures,” an album that Ye has been plugging intermittently for months alongside the R&B singer Ty Dolla Sign, a frequent collaborator.
In various appearances around the Miami area in the last week, Ye has played songs from the album and said that it would be released on Friday, Dec. 15, although false starts, delays and missed deadlines have long been a feature of Ye’s process and marketing prowess. Billboard reported in October that Ye and Ty Dolla Sign were considering label distribution partners for the release, since Ye’s longtime record company, Def Jam, distanced itself from him amid the controversies last fall.
The two musicians had previously attempted to stage a concert or listening event at an arena in Italy for up to 100,000 people, then pivoted to teasing a “multi stadium listening event” last month, similar to the events Ye used to promote his album “Donda” in 2021. Both plans fizzled.
The version of “Vultures” that was played in Miami early Tuesday included appearances by Charlie Wilson, Lil Baby, Freddie Gibbs, Chris Brown, Young Thug (who is currently incarcerated and on trial) and Ye’s oldest daughter, North West, who rapped on one track, “It’s your bestie/Miss, Miss Westie.”
The album began with a track titled “Everybody” that referenced the 26-year-old Backstreet Boys hit of the same name (“Yeezy’s back/all right!”). On the song, Ye seemed to allude to his potential status as an entertainment industry pariah, rapping, “Come sue me/MeToo me/surviving Ye/come shoot me.” Later, he adds, “Everybody waiting for me to say the wrong thing.”
Having long toed the line of accepted celebrity rabble-rousing, Ye lost lucrative professional associations with the Creative Artists Agency and Adidas, where his Yeezy brand sneaker was a best seller, late last year following his wearing of a shirt that read “White Lives Matter” and an online post in which he threatened to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.”
Following pushback and amid subsequent reporting about his longtime fascination with Nazism, Ye doubled down in a series of bizarre interviews with right-wing firebrands including Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones, telling Jones, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis,” and “I do love Hitler.”
While Ye has remained largely quiet in public in the year since, performing in concert just once with Travis Scott, he has continued to push buttons while alluding to the controversy, rapping on the song “Vultures,” in crude terms, that he could not be antisemitic because he had sex with a Jewish woman. He has also worn logos that resemble a German coat of arms, including a double-headed eagle paired with the word vultures.