Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Underrated Classic: Kanye West "808's & Heartbreak"

In 2008, Kanye West was on top of the world, with three flawless albums under his belt and already a fixture as a major producer, he changed things up with an album done on-the-fly and altered the landscape of hip-hop for years to come. The record was 808's & Heartbreak. Before the album was released West was going mourning the loss of his mother, the late Dr. Donda West, and the break-up of a then girlfriend. He took all of his heartbreak and laid it out the best way he knew how -- in the studio. The result was a record that had inspiration from Kraftwerk, Gary Newman, and Portishead rather than classic hip-hop samples or beats, it was an electropop album that heard West mainly sing, using the help of auto-tone, and hearing a departure from his lyrical delivery and rather something cold and distant. This was far from a traditional rap album or a traditional pop album, West managed to blur the lines perfectly and attract new fans and may have alienated old ones, however, in the years to come, thanks to 808's, the music industry wrapped itself around the idea of how this record was done and made. Artists like T-Payne, Kid Cudi, Drake, Lil Wayne, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, all began using what West had done on this record and made a career out of it. Even the sounds on this record crossed over for artists like James Blake, Bon Iver, have begun to adopt this style and sound.  Now, five years after it was released, we look back and realize the power of what this record did and how fantastic it still is.