It’s been seven years since Kanye West dropped the boundary-pushing 808s and Heartbreak. An album of its sort today would be more expected and lauded by the public. But back in 2008, it was a few years ahead of its time, and like any worthwhile piece of art, it drew both good and bad criticism. It’s safe to say the rap/singing game has changed since, and Kanye had a huge part in that.
Here are five reasons 808s and Heartbreak is Kanye West’s best album yet.
We got to hear Kanye’s amazing singing.
We all know Kanye West can’t really sing, but watching him belt out notes he can’t hit was such an endearing quality about the album. On top of the vulnerability in his music, the earnestness in ‘Ye’s voice added another layer of emotion. It was also refreshing to hear someone other than T-Pain using Auto-Tune. The Auto-Tune highlighted Kanye’s shortcomings, but ironically, the weakest part of 808s is also its biggest strength. How often do we actually get to hear Kanye sing? The only thing more entertaining is his dancing.
It provided an introduction to Kid Cudi.
What was sing-rapping before Kid Cudi? Sure, there’s Drake, but So Far Gone dropped seven months after A Kid Named Cudi came out. And after Man on the Moon: The End of Day, the sound is technically grandfathered by Kid Cudi. 808s and Heartbreak is essentially Cudi’s sound with Kanye’s voice – similar to Drake’s Take Care being so heavily influenced by The Weeknd’s moody temperament. Cudi himself has mentioned that if he rapped about money, cars, and hoes, there would be no Drake. Kid Cudi is one of the leaders of the new school, and his upcoming Speedin’ Bullet To Heaven should be nothing short of amazing. Influence is everything.
It’s the blueprint for other rappers.
Drake‘s whole sound is a more refined, clean-cut and thought-out version of 808s and Heartbreak. Yes, emotional rappers were nothing new (Joe Budden has made a career out of it), but outside of Drake, you’ve now also got Travi$ Scott, whose entire discography sounds like a rebellious 808s and Heartbreak. ‘Ye provided rappers with a platform to share their art, which is the whole point of G.O.O.D Music’s mantra: getting out our dreams. And ever since the album dropped, the introspective sing-songy emcees have been coming out of the woodwork in droves.
It’s fun for the whole family.
I remember playing the album in the car with my parents and grandmother a few months after it was released. Typically, that calls for finding the edited version or skipping songs all together. But when playing 808s, I quickly realized that Kanye’s album is pretty mellow content-wise. There’s no cursing or suggestive lyrics throughout the entire tape. Lil Wayne does curse once during his verse on “See You In My Nightmares,” but the CD version edits it out. The fact that such an influential and dark album – from a rapper no less – managed this feat without dumbing down the essence is nothing short of revolutionary in the hip-hop game.
It certified ‘Ye as a creative genius.
Kanye finally decided to change things up. He had followed his typical route of school-themed albums with College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation and thankfully, the fourth record wasn’t a grad school reference. Another album with extremely soulful production wouldn’t make Kanye the creative genius that he is today. He changed up his style for 808s and Heartbreak, and has been doing the same with every album since. Yeezus and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are sonically different and groundbreaking in their own ways. And yes, we could probably write five reasons those are ‘Ye’s greatest albums as well. Such is the enigma that is Kanye West.
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