— Sara Ergen (@ergense) September 29, 2015
Kanye West graced us with one of his most influential hip-hop and rap albums to date. It’s also one of my most listened to albums on Spotify and speaks to me more than most albums out there. Different from previous Yeezy albums, 808s & Heartbreak brought on a new wave of music – Auto-Tune, and yes he did ask king of the Auto-Tune, T-Pain, for some advice. It was actually when Kanye and T-Pain worked on their hit song ‘Good Life’ that Kanye began to experiment with Auto-Tune and ultimately recruited Mr. Teddy Pain to help him with the sound of 808s & Heartbreak.
While some may say the use of Auto-Tune isn’t genuine or isn’t ‘real music,’ I believe it adds a completely different dynamic to any song and even to the overall tone. People get their panties in a bundle when they hear a song with Auto-Tune or anything out of the ordinary and scoff at it saying ‘that’s not talent’ or ‘that’s not real music.’
I have a few issues with this:
1. Kanye isn’t meant to sing – he’s not Adele. If the use of Auto-Tune makes his songs top hits, he can use it.
2. While I’m obviously not a musical artist and all of this is in my own opinion, I don’t see you up there making music or being his producer, so again, he can use it.
3. He tried something new, something different. That’s Kanye, so accept it.
4. I think talent is being able to experiment with something new (at the time), like Auto-Tune, produce a full album using that sound and have that album debut at No.1 on the Billboard 200.
The album features, as its title implies, 808s, a drum machine that creates a distorted sound, and the many heartbreaks of Kanye, ranging from the loss of his mother to numerous heartaches in his life. The album has influenced many of the sounds you hear today, bringing on a new wave of rappers, singers, and producers.
While the album is essentially quite negative and listeners are hearing Kanye at his most vulnerable, it inspired other rappers and hip-hop artists to take creative risks with their own work. One artist being Drake. Listen to So Far Gone, and you will hear a similar sound to 808s – Drake’s rapping over Kanye’s ‘Say You Will.’ Other influenced artists include Jay Z, The Weeknd, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean, and Childish Gambino.
808s also features an overarching theme that can be appreciated universally even if you aren’t a hip-hop or Kanye fan. There are messages of heartbreak, losing a loved one, devastation, death, and frustration. We have all experienced such things and to have music to listen to when you’re in those types of gloomy moods can help the grieving process immensely.
I had the honor of seeing the album performed in full this fall at the Hollywood Bowl with three friends of mine who equally, if not moreso, appreciate this album. Not only is the Hollywood Bowl an epic venue to begin with, but it was something about seeing Ye perform 808s that was truly magical. The sound. The stage. The lights. The energy of the people. Holy smokes. Even with the negative connotations hip-hop music can receive and especially the negative perception surrounding Kanye, I have never seen a more uplifting, positive crowd of people than I had seen at this concert. Every single person was singing along, mesmerized by the performance and artistry of Mr. West.
I think the beauty of this album really lies in Kanye being his most vulnerable, him revealing so much of his personal life to us, and taking creative risks, resulting in a new sound of hip-hop and R&B, creating an electro-pop sound, if you will. What’s cool is not only did it influence other artists and their work, but each of those artists attemped such creative risks in their own, unique ways. Kanye has always been one to want to break the mold and be the best he can be (without caring what anyone thinks – mad respect), and with 808s & Heartbreak, where he was just doing his own thing and being the realest, it seemed to have sparked more creativity, influence, and risk-taking than even he could have ever been planned or imagined.
808s & HEARTBREAK TRACKLIST
1. Say You Will
2. Welcome To Heartbreak
5. Love Lockdown
8. Street Lights
9. Bad News
10. See You In My Nightmares
11. Coldest Winter
12. Pinocchio Story
[tracklist & lyrics via Genius.com]