Monday, December 01, 2008


Song: Paranoid
Artist: Kanye West
Album: 808’s and Heartbreak

After first hearing the building, emotional, “Love Lockdown,” the fist single from Kanye West’s amazing new album “808’s & Heartbreak” I was very intrigued at what the man was going to be doing for this full album. It was a departure from West’s already left of center hip hop and he has continued that with the full album. And this could arguably be his most consistent set of songs yet, and possibly one of the top albums of the year.

What interests me most about this record is what it means for hip hop itself, and where other artists in this genre can go artistically. I won’t pretend to be a hip hop expert, but most seems to fall in three categories; pop hip hop that strives for hit singles and or club play, socially conscious rap that aims to raise the subject matter of hip hop from guns/drugs/money, and then you’re “artsy” hip hop that just goes for anything. (Outkast) Kanye West has tried to balance all three, and his first three albums have been successful commercially and artistically. But he’s always stayed inside the comfortable realm of what is hip hop, despite fusing other genre’s (French House on “Stronger,” etc.) into his pop aesthetic.

With “808’s & Heartbreak,” West doesn’t play anything safe, looking to the cool vibe of 80’s New Wave and not rapping at all, just using the AutoTune devise on his singing voice. Frankly the results are remarkable. Yes “Love Lockdown” is probably the best track, filled with brooding lyrics, drums that will kick your ass and a vibe that is original (for a hip hop artist.) But the album is filled with great tracks, one after another. And the consistent tempo, vibe, and lyrical content (West post massive break up with fiancé) make it his “Blood on the Tracks” or his “Sea Change.”

In many ways the touchstone really is “Sea Change,” Beck’s downbeat folk break up record. “808’s & Heartbreak” is similar as it shows West pairing back his kitchen sink approach to pop hip hop (like Beck) and making a definitive emotional statement. Sure it won’t sell as many records as his more hip hop focused stuff, and it already has garnered some backlash from that community, but it shows a huge step forward artistically for West, and for hip hop in general.

Aside form singles “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless,” check out the very fun “Paranoid” and the Tears for Fears biting album closer “Coldest Winter.” If you thought Jay-Z sampling “Annie” was bananas, see a hip hopper take an obscure 80’s gem and turn it into a from the heart emotional tour de force.


Love Lockdown


No comments: