Ranked among the 40 most revolutionary albums in the history of music by Rolling Stone magazine, the 808’s and Heartbreak album is an eternal subject of debate among Kanye West fans. Where other people praised the project, some saw it as a failed artistic experiment by The College Dropout rapper. Whether you enjoy listening to it or not, Ye’s fourth album has to make everyone agree on a point that 808’s and Heartbreak has shaped the music of the 2010s like no other album has. Kanye West’s robotic lamentations have paved the way for a whole generation of new artists, all inspired by the extraordinary avant-garde of the Chicago emcee’s project. Almost a decade later from it’s original release of November 25, 2008. No one tapped into the sound Kanye was making.
Coming off the extraordinary success of Graduation in 2007, Kanye West experience a tragic loss that scarred him forever. In a few months after the release of Graduation, his mother Donda died suddenly after a cosmetic surgery operation and his fiancée Alexis Phifer left him after six years. At the highest artistic and humanly low, Kanye West spent three weeks to record an album use as an outlet from his frustrations and emotions. He then describes this new project in these terms:“Hip-hop is over for me. I sing, I do not rap. I want to be part of these artists that we see on old black and white photos: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix … And I do not want to do it by making another rap album full of samples. I had to create a whole new musical genre to put a name on what I do now and it’s called ‘pop-art’, not to be confused with the movement of visual art. I realize that my place in history is to be the voice of a generation. ” It’s hard today to give him the wrong.
After dropping 808s, the album was very coldly received by critics. And even if then he scored pretty good, 808’s and Heartbreak left a lot of fans hungry. On the musical level, the disappearance of rap in favor of a song totally self-contained, the ultra-minimalist productions and the massive use of autotune didn’t satisfy many. Lyrically, 808’s and Heartbreaks told his story of sadness, abandonment and loneliness, themes that had never before been explored on such a big hip-hop project. The album is considered by many to be the first failure of West’s career. In the image of the earthquake caused by the passage of Bob Dylan on the electric guitar at the Newport festival in 1965,is equal to Kanye on the electronic pop side in sad tone in 2008 that was not understood by the fans .
While he was used to soulful samples , Yeezus goes against the grain by drowning his album under synthetic tablecloths, something that wasn’t done at all during that time. By breaking with the tradition that made Kanye West, Kanye, he decided to do what all great artists did before him, in all artistic fields: to deconstruct his work to start from scratch in a new direction. Often misunderstood at the moment, these changes of orientation took on a new dimension years later, when one can measure the impact they have had on their artistic movement. Because if 808’s and Heartbreak sounded nothing like its time, our era’s sound would be much different.
The sensitivity assumed and the raw side of this album mad e it clear to many young artists that it was possible to share their feelings, their weaknesses and their doubts in hip-hop. It was indeed when he sounded the most robotic that Kanye West seemed the most human. Unlike now, it was not customary to see an artist display his inner ill-being in hip-hop of the 2000s. The melancholy of Drake and Kid Cudi, the wrenching of Frank Ocean and the existential doubts of Childish Gambino would have never seen the day without this first stone laid by Kanye West in November 2008.
In addition with the sound, Kanye West fused the use of auto-tune in hip-hop that was previously popular with artists like T-Pain and Lil Wayne. The two men collaborated with Yeezus on this album, first to teach West to sing using this tone-correction software, the second with Wayne appearing on “See You In My Nightmares”. Now widespread everywhere, from NLP to Travis Scott, the auto-tune owes its popularity to some of Kanye’s sound experiments on 808’s and Heartbreak.. The choice of singing in favor of rap, surprising at the time, is now commonplace in hip-hop. Author of pop anthems like “One Dance” or “Take Care”, Drake has always recognized that no one has had as much influence on his music as Kanye West.
A few months after the release of 808’s and Heartbreak , the young Canadian rapper put his spin on West’s “Say You Will” with his title “What’s Real”. It’s pretty hard to argue that Kanye West’s project helped revolutionize music and allowed the emergence of Drake. But he was far from the only one. At the same time, Kid Cudi, West’s protege, released his masterpiece Man on the Moon: The End of Day. In their turn, Kid Cudi and Drake have inspired a new generation of artists. Travis Scott is one of the most striking examples, with him admiring Cudi without fail, the Texas rapper’s electronic productions, as well as his massive use of auto-tune, connecst him directly to the sound left on 808’s and Heartbreak . Another artist to mention is Future, whose most melancholy productions are also worthy examples of 808s.
The generation of Drake, Cudi, Gambino or Frank Ocean are not the only ones that are offsprings of Kanye’s fourth album. Today we have artists like Lil Uzi Vert or Trippie Redd that allows you to grasp the impact of this album. We can also evoke artists like Desiigner or XXXTENTACION who have partly managed to appropriate it with a saturated musicality and a massive use of the autotune for the first time and a use of the themes from 808s. Today, an artist like Trippie Redd builds an entire project on love melancholy, accompanied by a high-pitched use of the autotune that obviously echoes 808’s and Heartbreak. The paroxysm of this influence on the new wave is undoubtedly reached with the tube “XO Tour Llif3” of Lil Uzi GVert who managed to move all our heads on a tearful piece evoking the depression and the suicide on the bottom of deception in love. What 808’s and Heartbreak had tried to bring to rap, Lil Uzi Vert has done it in the best way.
But who better than Kanye to talk about what Kanye does? “ 808’s and Heartbreak is the loss of many loved ones at the same time. It’s like losing a leg and an arm and having to find a way to keep walking, ” he said at the time of the release. By producing an album sung without knowing how to sing, immersed in electronic music whereas until then it was known only for its soul samples, infinitely sad and heartbreaking while hip-hop celebrated until then the success and the social ascent Kanye West redistributed the cards. The most daring will go as far as connecting the depressing mood of 808’s and Heartbreak to the fear of the stock market crashing in 2008, making this album the gateway to a new cultural era, and giving it a more introspective and fragile look. Without going so far in interpreting West’s project, one can argue without a shadow of a doubt that it is the most influential album of his career and how ” the coldest story ever told ” by Kanye, changed music and the new generation of hip hop.