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.