Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak

Kanye follows up Graduation with a brilliant album that you will almost certainly not get on the first listen, if you’re expecting anything like Graduation or Late Registration. Kanye is of course reknowned for his hip-hop, but he takes a turn towards left-field here, experimenting with synth-pop style beats, and heavy on the synth-drums – indeed, half the name of the album, 808s, is for the drum machine used to produce the all-pervasive thumping drum line.

Love Lockdown, the first single from the album, is adequate demonstration of the style – the drum line almost plays a heartbeat throughout the song, and Kanye’s voice is tempred by the blatant and intentional use of Auto-Tune to modify the sounds – the robotic texture gauranteed to alienate one way or the other.

Kanye apparently wrote this album following his breakup with his finace of 18 months, and also in the wake of his mother’s death, and the anger and anguish is apparent in some of the songs. While this doesn’t appear to have the chart toppers of previous releases, the album itself is far more cohesive and well constructed.  The question now is whether Kanye continues to set the pace with this, or whether he wanders into his own new genre. It’s identifiable as hip-hop, but only tangentially.

4 thoughts on “Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak”

  1. I like the album but its quite a downer compared to his other stuff. It’s good though and whilst being a departure from his other music, it’s still Kanye underneath it all. Despite how the market is saturated with rappers abusing autotune, he makes something with some lasting appeal.

    Also, you should definitely check out that myspace band linked above. Looks like that comment was written in free verse or something. That’s deep.

  2. Alex: that actually is a pretty damn good remake. Is it on sale/more widely available?

    Jack: Yeah, the downer aspect I suppose is driven by his anger and/or mourning, which is why I don’t expect any major chart-toppers, but I guess you never know what strikes a chord.

    I figure the autotune is used so well because they set out to use it for its effect (as I believe Kanye’s stated in an interview or two), rather than having it as a side-effect of trying to clean it up.

  3. Actually by “abuse of autotune”, I was referring not so much to pop starlets but to the hip hop community and the likes of T-Pain, Lil’ Wayne, Akon, etc. There songs are blatantly manufactured to cash in on the gimmick.

    I think Kanye is probably guilty of the same thing I respect him for pouring so much of himself into this album. His music has always gone against the grain in some way.

Leave a Reply