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The artist formerly known as Kanye West is back with a No. 1 album


The artist formerly known as Kanye West is back at No. 1.


YE: (Rapping) Who's not entertained by my pain? Who ain't cashed a check off my name? When my campaign turned to cam-pain, I burned 8 billion to take off my chains.

MARTÍNEZ: Kanye is now just Ye, and he was dropped from his recording label after making a series of antisemitic comments in 2022. Still, his new collaborative album with Ty Dolla $ign, called "Vultures 1," debuted on top of the Billboard albums chart. Mano Sundaresan wrote about the record for NPR Music. Mano, so a lot of critics acknowledged that Ye has made some of the most really important music of the 21st century, but he's also made it difficult for some of his old fans to keep listening and support him. You got the antisemitism, wearing the MAGA hat. So I'm wondering who listens to him now? Who's his audience?

MANO SUNDARESAN, BYLINE: Well, I can't speak for everybody, but when I went to his listening party at Long Island, it was surprisingly a lot of kids, a lot of kids with their parents. I talked to a few kids who said they found out about Ye through TikTok, which is just, like, insane to anybody who's over the age of 25. And honestly, I think the comments the past few years, the antisemitic comments, have only really cut off a slice of his fan base.

MARTÍNEZ: So is Ye cancel-proof?

SUNDARESAN: You know, I kind of hate that way of thinking about things, but I mean, yeah, kind of. I think he has been a firecracker for years now, and it's part of his image rather than something that he has to rehabilitate, if that makes sense.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. What about the album? Is it any good?

SUNDARESAN: I mean, I will say it's actually complete, coherent for once, which is actually a lot to ask of Ye these days. The last few years, he has been essentially demoing his albums at listening parties and updating them in real time after they come out. And I think something is actually lost in its completeness to me. I found it a little bit dry. I find it a little bit sterile. It feels a bit like he's trying really hard to say, I can still do this, you know?

MARTÍNEZ: He is doing some things that are being accused of maybe using unlicensed samples from other people's music. What's up with that?

SUNDARESAN: Yeah. I mean, and this is actually something that isn't entirely new either with Kanye releases. So with the most recent album, "Vultures 1," he failed to clear a Donna Summer sample, and then Ozzy Osbourne also came at him for dropping an uncleared sample of his music on another track. Kanye works in these really erratic, kind of hurried bursts these days. He's very much the equivalent of, like, a high schooler completing his paper on the final day before it's due.

MARTÍNEZ: Or a journalist.

SUNDARESAN: Yeah. And with that comes a lot of boxes that just failed to get checked.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so I mentioned how he lost his recording label. He also lost a partnership with Adidas and a few other brands as well. And that has cost him some cash. A lot riding on this album though - could this album and the way it's come out and the success it's had early on - could this help somehow rehabilitate his image?

SUNDARESAN: Well, I mean, it's interesting to frame it like that because I think he is still making so much money doing it himself. If we're believing this screenshot of a text conversation between Ye and his consultant, Milo Yiannopoulos, he made $19.3 million on "Vultures" merch as of this past Monday, and that was just releasing it through his own website independently. And that's the kind of celebrity that doesn't need this kind of language around rehabilitation. You rehab your image if you really are struggling, and I can't speak to his personal matters, but Ye the artist seems to be thriving.


YE: (Rapping) Bipolar, antisemite, and I'm still the king.

MARTÍNEZ: Mano Sundaresan wrote about the new Kanye West-Ty Dolla $ign album "Vultures 1" for NPR Music. Mano, thanks.

SUNDARESAN: Thank you.


YE: (Rapping) All that word of mouth couldn't take me out. After all of that, your kids in the house going crazy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Mano Sundaresan is a producer at NPR.