The erratic hip-hop artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who in the past few years has repeatedly come under fire for antisemitic tweets, comments and actions, is due to release a new album today. Despite Ye’s lackluster apology in October 2022 and admission that he “likes Jewish people again” after watching actor Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, the new album has raised hackles for its art, lyrics and public statements.
The album, Vultures, is a collaboration between Ye and Ty Dolla $ign (the stage name of musician Tyrone William Griffin Jr.). Prior to its release, Ye shared some lyrics of the title song: “How I’m antisemitic? I just f—ed a Jewish bitch,” referring to the ex-wife of a Jewish music mogul, according to The Times of Israel. The Forward compared the line to the common rhetorical dodge, “I can’t be antisemitic, some of my best friends are Jews.”
Ye performed this song at a recent event in Miami while wearing a black hood bearing a very close resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan hoods worn throughout the 20th century. While the KKK is most known for its horrendous attacks against African Americans, the organization has also terrorized the American Jewish community, particularly in the 1960s.
Kanye’s new lyrics are not the only questionable aspect of the new album. In another eyebrow-raising move, the album cover has also been linked to Nazism.
Sam Moore of HipHopDX notes that the layout and typography echoes several album covers by the Norwegian metal band Burzum. The sole member of that band, Varg Nikernes, allegedly founded the neo-Nazi organization Heathen Front while in prison for murder and church arson. While the cover of Vultures is a soft tan color and the cover of Burzum is black and gray, both covers use the same font and location for the titles, and show desolate wastelands with a single prominent tree. In 2016 Ye was featured in a rap song by Gucci Mane which sampled Barzum.
The cover art for Vultures is a landscape by the celebrated German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose most famous painting is Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (c. 1817). Friedrich’s reputation suffered for many years as a consequence of its appropriation by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.
Finally, at a listening party on Thursday night, Ye went on a six-minute rant that was shared on an Instagram live stream posted by @yesjulz. The video shows Kanye complaining about Zionists, Jews owning hospitals and Jewish success in finance. He also says, with some force and no further context, “Jesus Christ, Hitler, Ye.”
Top image, clockwise from left: Kanye West at a 2011 performance in Santiago, Chile. The album art of ‘Vultures.’ The album art of Barzum’s 1996 album, Filosofem, released while creator Varg Vikernes was in prison. All photos via Wikimedia.