Dev Hynes is releasing Negro Swan, his new album as Blood Orange, tomorrow. On the album is a track titled “Vulture Baby” and, in an interview with Pitchfork, Hynes gave some insight on what the song was about.
“I’m basically talking about an artist—who shall not be disclosed. But I read an interview with them talking about how they were done with hip-hop culture and wanted to go back to… actually, you know what, this could be applicable to a lot of artists last year, now that I think of it,” Hynes told the site. “It’s about white people who have got their cred by flirting with rap culture, and now they’re gonna show their country roots. [laughs] I thought it was kind of a funny trend. It was almost like, as PC culture was rising, white people were suddenly like, “Oh shit, maybe I shouldn’t be on this Migos track.”
So who is the mystery white artist being addressed here? Well, it’s not really much of a mystery at all. Based on the specificity of white artist who was “done with hip-hop culture” and wanted to return to their roots, the obvious answer is Miley Cyrus. The interview Hynes alludes to is almost certainly Cyrus’ 2017 Billboard cover story, in which she made an uncomfortable comment about seeing Kendrick Lamar’s song “Humble” as being different to the rest of rap at the time:
I love that because it’s not “Come sit on my dick, suck on my cock.” I can’t listen to that anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little. It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’—I am so not that.
Cyrus’ rebrand hits all the notes of what Hynes described about “Vulture Baby,” though he stops himself to note that Cyrus is not alone. Justin Timberlake, for instance, was another hip-hop adjacent white artist who recently returned to his “roots” with the very forgettable Man of the Woods album released earlier in the year. Timberlake didn’t give any cringeworthy interviews that exposed this move as a blatant backing away from any association to blackness—and he once again worked with longtime collaborators Timbaland and Pharrell—but the shoe still fits there as well. It’ll be interesting to hear Dev Hynes’ “Vulture Baby” and gleam more insight from the record when Negro Swan officially premieres tomorrow.