Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak
Of the great break up albums in music lore – Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks or even Beck’s Sea Change – few have coincided with a musical watershed such as the Matt Damon of hip hop’s fourth album. More than just a break-up record – it was recorded just after the death of West’s mother – this is the sound of someone at the their commercial zenith taking a wilful (reckless?) turn away from his roots to make an odd, highly stylised pop record.
808s and Heartbreak is all plaintive croons, Atari console bleeps and hollow tribal beats generated by a the eponymous Roland TR-808 drum machine. Only the mildly narcotic ambience, West’s two dimensional approach to women (they are baaaaaad!) and a token appearance from Lil’ Wayne are what remain of West’s hip hop origins.
While the majority of his contemporaries excel in formula, West’s confessional tone is compelling, and in parts brave and surprisingly coherent.