Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak (Review)

So I am going to say what it seems a lot of people are scared of saying, I like the new Kanye album.  I will admit, I was scared to admit this at first as well.  I didn’t like any of the singles and anytime I listened to an aditional track, I just wasn’t feelin’ it.  After listening to it as a whole and genuinely giving it a shot, having it play in the background, I can safely say, it is a great album.  I don’t want to go as far to say it’s his best album, but it is his most mature album, even if the vocoder and voice effects make it feel like an immature production.   At times the production and beats start to feel a little stale but I attribute that to how much we associate Kanye with putting a twist on a classic sample. Hearing him primarily creating his own material is a different sound for him and I think a lot of us were giving him to much credit as a producer, when he really just heavily reconstructs someone elses work.  I’m not trying to take anything away from him he does what he does well.  Here is a total count of samples on each Kanye West album.  13 for College Dropout; 22 for Late Registration; 20 for Graduation; and only 2 samples and 1 recreation on 808’s.  Wikipedia is my source for that by the way.  But looking at that you can start to understand what this album is about.  Kanye is finally creating his own sound.

I guess this album is almost dividing listeners into two different groups.  This is where I go a little extra geeky and make a comic book referance.  in “Local” by Brian Wood a musician while having a phone interview says, “As artists, as any kind of creative person, you progress. You adapt. Your art grows up with you, and to me there’s nothing sadder than musicians who’re still cranking out the same stuff 20 years later.”  He later goes on to say, “You’re hanging on to a safe, proven sound for the sake of sales and your audience, right?  Or you don’t have anything else to say.  In which case, probably time to pack it in.”  This is more prevalent a statement than many made today about music.  In a day and age where the term sell out is thrown around more often than ever and it is becoming cool to like that unheard of band and uncool to like the once unknown and currently growing artist, an artist isn’t allowed to grow.  Artists will always be compared to their previous works, and that is okay, but an artists should be allowed to breath, and thier personall credibility shouldn’t hang in the balance when they decide to change thier sound.  An artist should evolve just like the listener should evolve, not necesarily in the same direction, but evolve none the less.

Kanye West evolved, don’t hate on his evolution.  Sure, maybe you don’t like his new sound, but he is still making music that some people are enjoying.  Yeah Kanye takes a shot at singing and he doesn’t have the greatest voice in the world, but niether does Mos Def or Pharrell but no one is hating on them.  For the record, Mos Def fell off, has a bigger ego than Kanye, and has shown far less to support the ego lately.  And Pharrell just sucks, everyone knows Chad Hugo is the genius behind The Neptunes.  When it comes down to it, 808’s is slow, mellow, contemplative, and methodical.  It is an album in a day and age where the album has died.  I didn’t give him enough credit to make something so cohesive and relevant.  He made something that I think can stand the test of time where a single will fade away and die.  Turn the shuffle off and listen.  Just let it happen and don’t think about it.  This music can and will take you over.

In my opinion and for my ears, this is Kanye West’s strongest outing.  His lyrics are deep and strying into a realm that hip-hop rarely does.  He has come a long way from rhyming “coupon” with grey poupon” and “opera” with…oh yeah “opera” on Common’s “Southside”.  Why can some shitty, wish I was a punk band like Fall Out Boy sing about pain and heartbreak, but Kanye can’t.  There is an epic amount of hate being thrown around with this album.  I will admit it, I voiced a negative opinion before I listened to all of it, and I am eating my words.  Brian Zitzelman, you proved me wrong and when it came to this, your taste showed me the light.  Thank you.  This may be in my Top 10 for the year, at least in a honerable mention.



~ by Dar Man Hat Tan on December 17, 2008.

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