Vory Interview – Working on Kanye West’s Donda, New Album & More
Show & Prove: Vory
Words: Grant Rindner
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Vory prides himself on being “rarely seen, always heard”—at least for now. Tracks like “Ain’t It Funny” featuring Meek Mill and “You Got It” have racked up millions of streams on Spotify. His voice and writing is all over Kanye West’s 10th album, Donda, and he’s gearing up to release his own first solo LP, which will come out on Meek Mill’s Dream Chasers Records. Vory’s a genuine hybrid talent, a melodic rapper whose powerful voice genuinely captures the feelings of pain, love, loss and betrayal that he often muses on lyrically. Beyond that, he’s quickly staked out a reputation as your favorite pop star’s favorite collaborator, writing on tracks by Drake (“Mob Ties”), Bryson Tiller (“Don’t”) and Jay-Z and Beyoncé (“Friends”).
Known for his elusiveness and brevity—Vory keeps a low profile on social media and often obscures his face with a mask—the 24-year-old artist born, Tavoris Hollins Jr., follows the fittingly succinct mantra for this crucial phase of his burgeoning career. “Back in the day, music wasn’t really, you couldn’t see nobody, you could just hear ’em,” he says. It’s a reference to an earlier time in music, one where being aware of someone meant knowing the art they made, not seeing their face plastered everywhere.
Since first bursting on the scene in 2014, through his work with Bryson Tiller—Vory sang and cowrote “Break Bread” and the quadruple-platinum hit “Don’t”—he has made a name for himself within in-the-know industry circles. The Houston-born, Louisville-raised artist doesn’t come off overtly southern. In some ways, he has the universality of a Tiller or a Travis Scott, an artist in the internet age who can be all things to all people—whether he’s rapping mournfully about a lost friend on “Zayski (Heaven Now)” or singing brightly about his newly purchased home like on “Not Outside.”
Vory isn’t especially keen on interviews and is loathe to repeat details from his life he feels like he’s spoken on before. He has that what-I-want-to-say-I-say-in-the-music energy, opting to take the long road in an era where many artists feel pressure to release projects as often as they can. His first mixtape, Overdose, came in 2016, followed by the Lucky Me EP in 2018. Two years later, he signed with Meek Mill’s Dream Chasers Records and capped off 2020 with his standout self-titled project.
Meek has been a key figure in Vory’s career. The pair have known each other for close to two years, and spent the spring of 2020 recording together in New York and the Bahamas during the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Vory’s provided balance on Meek’s “Think It’s a Game” and “Middle of It” while the Philadelphia rapper returned the favor on Vory’s sultry single “Ain’t It Funny.”
Vory’s methodical approach to his music may mean he hasn’t taken every single opportunity that’s been available to him. But, he insists that’s not his loss, it’s theirs. “Everything I felt like I missed out on, they, in turn, missed out on me,” he maintains. That changed this past summer. He was posted up in Atlanta, working with Kanye on Donda. The two developed an easy chemistry fast, with Vory stressing the faith Kanye has put in him musically.
“We understand each other,” Vory explains of his connection with West. “Our vibe is crazy, though. Even his childhood friends are like, ‘You would think y’all have known each other for years.’”
Even among the laundry list of stars on Donda, Vory’s voice—brooding, authoritative, almost operatic on certain riffs, which is rare in the age of Auto-Tune—grabs you, like the scent of a cooling pie on a windowsill in an old cartoon. He appears several times on the album, including with Lil Durk on the somber song “Jonah” as well as the ecclesiastical “No Child Left Behind.”
“Back again, I used my back against the wall/Never called on y’all, never count on y’all/ Always count on God,” Vory sings over the latter’s gargantuan organs. His stirring pre-hook is a key part of a Beats by Dre commercial featuring sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson.
“With ‘No Child Left Behind,’ [Kanye] had an idea that was basically, ‘Never abandon your child,’” Vory shares. “That’s what he was trying to run with, and so that was a whole different song. And then I was like, ‘Nah, bro, say something [that] means the same thing, but it’s a different saying. More of a quote.’”
Besides high-profile artists like Kanye and Meek, Vory has also collaborated with other hybrid songwriter-vocalists like Landstrip Chip and Starrah. The latter, known for her work with Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott, appeared on Vory’s 2020 track “All Due Respect.”
The two first worked together at Boi-1da’s writing camp in Toronto in 2017. “My favorite thing about him as a vocalist is that you never know where he’s going to take you sonically or emotionally,” Starrah says. “He can do so much with his voice.”
Aside from his versatility, she praises Vory for his meticulous nature. “I feel like it’s more fun to collaborate with an artist like Vory, for sure. He has a very precise vision and he executes with precision. He puts his heart into it. It’s always exciting to watch him evolve and grow with every new release,” Starrah asserts.
Next up is Vory’s debut album, which will include brand new tracks, revamped versions of breakthrough records like “CC Interlude” featuring Lil Baby and no shortage of A-list appearances. In characteristic fashion, Vory’s keeping details close to the chest, declining to give a clear timeframe for release. The focus is on building a strong, considered discography and developing an audience not through gimmicks or internet savvy. “I was having a talk with Kanye and he was like, ‘Bro, it’s more powerful that way. You’re gaining a real fan base that way,’” Vory says.
For as long as he’s been in the public sphere, Vory’s name has been connected to other artists he’s collaborated with, but he’s in prime position to jump from intriguing newcomer to an actual pop music mainstay.
Even if he never takes off the mask.
Check out more from XXL magazine’s Fall 2021 issue, on stands now, including our cover story with Tyler, The Creator, Lil Nas X’s battle for respect in hip-hop, Wale talks about his new album, Folarin 2, find out more about Maxo Kream in Doin’ Lines, Bia reflects on how far she’s come in her career after “Whole Lotta Money” success, BMF actor Da’Vinchi talks rap music in Hip-Hop Junkie, Isaiah Rashad keeps it real about his faith, SoFaygo discusses signing to Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack label, CupcakKe’s fresh outlook on life with new album on the way, OhGeesy’s new solo career and goals, Blueface embraces the good and bad of going viral and more.