Release Date: Nov 25, 2008
Record label: Roc-A-Fella
Kanye West’s new fondness for vocal effects has mostly been characterized as an arrogant attempt at co-opting a trend, but in the context of his latest exhibit, there seems to be more behind the choice than many have acknowledged. West is notorious for his honesty, but the bulk of his emotional expression up to this point has revolved around fairly one-dimensional constructs: happiness, anger and frustration. After a famously rocky year, things aren’t nearly that simple for him any longer.
After three academia-themed album titles — 2004’s ?The College Dropout, 2005’s ?Late Registration, and last year’s Graduation — one could forgive Kanye for following up with, ? say, LSATs, Here I Come! Instead, the Chicago rapper hangs a dramatic left on 808s & Heartbreak, an album whose frosty, minimal sound backs lyrics of surprisingly raw emotion. Gone, for the most part, are ? the silver-tongued boasts and ? exhaustive cataloging of material goods; instead, mournful tales of heartbreak dominate (understandably so: This past year, West suffered both the sudden death of his mother and the breakup of a long-term engagement). “My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was ? pictures of my cribs,” he intones forlornly on the piano-laced ? “Welcome to Heartbreak,” and ? on the stuttering “Heartless,” he confesses, “Well, I got homies/? But in the end it’s still so lonely.
The world’s most ambitious rapper goes for broke Kanye West long ago established himself as hip-hop’s most soulful producer, and then as one of its cleverest wordsmiths, and then as one of its savviest marketers. Along the way he almost single-handedly killed gangsta rap and replaced it with something resembling emo. With that as the backdrop, West—now an introspective 31 years old—has created 808s & Heartbreak, a hot mess of an album that’s simultaneously the most indulgent and most disciplined record he’s ever made.
It was inevitable that Kanye West would eventually namecheck Patrick Bateman. Great suits, delusions of grandeur: the über-yuppie from Brett Easton Ellis's Eighties satire American Psycho is an ideal touchstone for someone whose self-regard and addiction to shopping had grown so out of hand that even other rappers might have thought him a bit flash. West announced Bateman's influence on his fourth album, 808s and Heartbreak, earlier this year, sidestepping feminist outrage by citing the way his role model 'was all about labels', rather than admiring his creative approach to butchering women.
Even by Kanye West's standards, delivering an album of meditations on loneliness and paranoia, entirely sung through Autotune, is an audacious statement. 808s & Heartbreak shouldn't work: West's takes on the solitude of the superstar are solipsistic and clumsy ("How could you be so Dr Evil?" he asks on Heartless). That he ultimately pulls it off is testament to his talent: it is the stylised, minimal music that lends the album its power, and which helps West convince as a man beset by demons and femmes fatales.
Review Summary: Everyone, I'd like you to meet the emotionally fragile and digitally enhanced Kanye West.There is a slowly, but steadily rising revolution occurring with R&B artists, and it can be directed towards the Auto-Tune. What the Auto-Tune entails is perfectly tuning pitches digitally, which in turn, alters varying pitches in a glitchy, almost robotic manner, while maintaining the artist’s voice. This artificial method has been used lately by Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain, but also in the past by Cher among other artists.
Kanye West had a rough year and channelled the pain of his mother's death and the breakdown of his relationship with his fiancée into a defiantly personal album. He's mostly given up on rapping, instead embracing the auto-tune-assisted robo-soul crooning that Akon, T-Pain and Lil Wayne have abused to much success. As the title suggests, a central element in the sound is the booming 808 drum machine - along with Auto-Tune, one of the most overused textures in contemporary urban music.
Kanye West’s first three albums, all with education-themed titles, have been cemented as a true trilogy, not just a nominal one, by the release of his fourth album, 808s and Heartbreak, which moves in a different direction. The move seems instinctive, from the gut and based on the specific circumstances of his life: his mother passed away and his relationship with his girlfriend dissolved. It’s mostly the latter that these songs cover, though the former no doubt influenced the sad demeanor of the album.
For an artist who once claimed he wanted to be the biggest pop star in the word, Kanye West has ridden on the success of the same winning formula for some time now. And as fun as those big, brash summer singalongs with Chris Martin are, something more is needed if this artist is going to change our lives and reinvent music like he has boasted. And West’s fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, delivers that departure from the familiar.
Prior to its release, much fuss had been made about 808s and Heartbreak. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, Kanye West’s celebrity status has grown immensely since his College Dropout debut. Even releasing an album next to Britney Spears and Guns N’ Roses, it seems he is able to keep the stage light directed at him. Regardless of all the fuss about auto-tune and West’s personal life; the fact that the spotlight follows him as though he were a beatle is testament to a marvelously created marketing mix.
Kanye West :: 808's & HeartbreakRoc-A-Fella Records/Def JamAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaWell, he certainly knows how to keep things interesting. With his College-themed album sequence prematurely aborted - his fourth album was meant to be the ridiculously-titled "Good Ass Job" - Kanye West has given hip hop the slip for a minute, all in aid of putting out one of the most cathartic albums in recent memory, "808's & Heartbreak." His last effort, "Graduation," cemented his place at the top of the rap world - despite being pretty average (how can an album be deemed a genuine "classic" if not ONE review gave it full marks?? LOL). But in the months after its' release, his mother died due to complications arising from cosmetic surgery.
In various spots across 808s & Heartbreak, the constant flutter of West's processed voice, along with a seldom interrupted sluggish march of aching sounds, is enlivened by the disarming manner in which despair and dejection are conveyed. When, in "Welcome to Heartbreak," he dispassionately recounts sitting alone on a flight, ahead of a laughing family, he makes first class sound like Siberia; he'd swap lives with the father in an instant. The majority of the lyrics, however, are directed at an ex who evidently did some damage; in "RoboCop" alone, she gets compared to the antagonist in Misery and is called a "spoiled little L.A.