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808s And Heartbreak by Kanye West

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Reviewed on 1st December 2008.

 
 

808s And Heartbreak

By Kanye West

He dropped out of college in 2004, touched the sky in 2005 and by 2007 was living the good life, but in 2008 Kanye West is welcoming us to heartbreak with the greatest artistic gamble mainstream pop has seen in years.

The Chicago MC / producer no longer raps, he does not even use a standard hip hop structure, instead vintage tribal drums are drowned by robotic vocals in the bleak, ambitious sea of sound that is '808s and Heartbreak'.

Opener, 'Say You Will' sets the depressive tone of the album, droning monk choirs ominously swirl around simplistic bleeping snares for a despairing yet beautiful six and a half minutes.

The sorrow that ensues is aided heavily by West's use of vocal autotune, which is devastatingly effective in producing what he describes as "the sound of heartbreak", electronically blending human honesty with robotic loneliness and isolation.

Just like on previous outings the lyrics don't stand up to the beats, the cringe-worthy moments are there in 'Streetlights' and 'Coldest Winter' but by shedding his intolerable ego West's words finally begin to hit the same emotional chord as the stellar production.

There are some glorious flashbacks to, 'Robocop' (real robot noises and everything) is the standout track on the album, eighties jackhammer drums culminate in Kanye hilariously chiding "you're just a spoiled little L.A. girl" over a lavish string symphony.

'808s and Heartbreak' features just two rap verses, Young Jeezy's understated flow weaves perfectly with the lurching, menacing 'Amazing', but Kanye's use of Lil Wayne on the album's penultimate track 'Knightmares' is dubious.

After a dark year, which included the death of his mother and a split with his fiancÚ; tragedy has sparked ingenuity within Kanye West's work resulting in a fresh, mature and innovative sound.

Mainstream pop and younger fans may not follow, but however many plays he will lose on Myspace he may just make up for in the CD players of trendy executives' CLKs.

 

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