5 Things We Learned From Kanye and Ty Dolla Sign’s ‘Vultures’ Album Event in Chicago

Kanye returned to Chicago to play the first volume of his Ty Dolla Sign collab album Vultures. Here’s what you need to know.

Image via Getty/River Callaway

On Thursday night, Kanye West returned to his hometown of Chicago and stood in the middle of the United Center in a Jason Voorhees mask, playing songs from the first volume of his Ty Dolla Sign collaboration project, Vultures. Two months after his last album listening event unraveled into a controversial rant that included another mention of Hitler (which ultimately led to a rare social media apology from Ye) he didn’t say a word this time. He also forgot to drop an actual album at midnight, but that’s par for the course, I suppose. He’ll run it back and do it again tonight in New York during another listening event.

For those following along at home, here are five takeaways from the Vultures event in Chicago last night.

The album sounds… finished?

If you’ve watched any of Kanye’s album release events over the years, you know the routine by now: he usually shows up late, plays partially finished music, and then repeats those steps over and over until the album is finished (even if that means literally living inside a stadium and tinkering until it’s complete). 

Since Kanye had already announced additional events before this one even started (including another in New York tonight), I expected the music to sound half-finished, but that wasn’t the case. Showing up on time, he played a bunch of songs that actually sounded complete, and there weren’t open verses or half-mumbled bars like we heard throughout the Donda listening events. He did play the songs totally out of order from how he listed them on the previously announced tracklist, but they were mostly accounted for.

The controversies are mostly ignored

If you were hoping for introspective verses from Kanye, where he’d address all of his remarks from the past few years and echo the words from his social media apology, that’s not what happened here. If you were afraid he would double down on his hateful remarks and incorporate them in his music, that’s also not the case (besides one baffling bar where he seemingly compared himself to Puff Daddy and R. Kelly). Instead, he mostly ignored everything. 

On the final song of the stream, it seemed like he was finally about to address some of the controversies, acknowledging the various ways he’s been described recently (“crazy, bipolar, antisemite”) before arguing that he’s still the “king.” But then the live feed cut abruptly mid-song and the whole thing was over prematurely. (Apparently this was because of Chicago’s live event curfew, which cut the event short.) Ending on a low note, the stream was filled with unhappy fans, and as the feed cut to black, the chat box was filled with messages like "Yefund."

In general, most people involved with the event on Thursday night—from the collaborators to the fans to Kanye himself—seemed to operate as if none of the controversies had happened at all.

The production and curation is strong

OK, so how is the music sounding? Well, certainly more polished than the pre-album single “Vultures.” Through it all, Kanye remains a very capable producer and curator, and putting a bunch of soulful Ty Dolla Sign vocals over lush, expensive-sounding production is a combination that’s difficult to screw up. Ty sounds great throughout the album, especially when accompanied by some of the most expansive, theatrical beats that Kanye has cooked up (or at least curated) in years. 

Ye brought in a lot of outside voices to flesh out each song, including Playboi Carti, Freddie Gibbs, Travis Scott, Westside Gunn, Quavo, Lil Baby, YG, and Rich The Kid. (It turns out he's definitely not in short supply of artists who still want to work with him.) Carti’s verses were standouts, as he leaned into the new deep-voice flow he’s been playing with lately, anchoring two of the album’s better songs "Fuk Sumn" and "Carnival."

And when it came to Kanye’s own vocals? The highs were high (he sounded very sharp on “Burn,” which will have everyone reminiscing about the “old Kanye”) and some of his singing was surprisingly strong. But it wasn’t all good. There were clunkers sprinkled throughout the album (as there have been on the past few) and he still left in that one line on “Vultures” for some reason. All in all, far from perfect, but a little better than expected at this point.

Nothing’s free

For years, Kanye has been livestreaming his album listening parties. Whether he was in Madison Square Garden or Wyoming, you could always watch them online for free. But that’s no longer the case. For this stream, he partnered with a company called Veeps and charged each viewer $19.99 to watch the live feed. Times have changed, huh?

He still can't hit his own deadlines

When Kanye announced a Feb. 9 release date for the first volume of Vultures, many expected it to arrive at midnight right after the listening session, but (surprise, surprise) that wasn’t the case. If Yesjulz tweets are to be believed, it’ll be “soon,” but if history repeats itself, it’s much more likely this thing will get drawn out a lot longer. To be continued, in New York.

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