808s & Heartbreak (released November 24, 2008)
It's always sad to see people we once loved slip into mental illness:
Courtesy of sohh.com:
"(Young) Jeezy came down to Hawaii with us because every time I'd write a chorus or write any type of hook, I'd be like man, 'What Would Jeezy Do?'" Ye admitted during a conference call. "You know how n***** have bumper stickers that say 'What Would Jesus Do?' Our s*** is like, 'What Would Jeezy Do?' What would he say on this record?"
Courtesy of msnbc.com:
"I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice," he said in an interview. "It’s me settling into that position of just really accepting that it's one thing to say you want to do it and it's another thing to really end up being like Michael Jordan."
Courtesy of the Associated Press:
"It's our responsibility as musicians to keep pushing each other....We will be the new Beatles, the new (Jimi) Hendrix. I want to be Elvis."
When I heard that Kanye was ditching his long-running college themed albums for his new release, I had no problem with it. The man has experienced a lot of pain in the last year after losing his mother and breaking up with his fiance. I knew he'd have a lot on his mind, which usually makes for good music. Remember Mary J. Blige's second album?
Well, it's not the message I mind here, it's the method. It sucks.
I don't know understand hip hop's obsession with auto-tune. The vocoder has been passed around more than dutch at a Method Man and Redman concert. And 808s & Heartbreak might be the biggest offender of the auto-tune craze.
All the tracks are built around two things - life without his mother and resentment over his ex. Kanye has never been a master lyricist, but what he lacks in depth is usually covered by his wit. Sadly, there's little wit here. Most of the lyrics just sound like bad, nerdy poetry. From "Heartless":
You run and tell your friends that you're leaving me
They say that they don't see what you see in me
You wait a couple months then you gon' see
You'll never find nobody better than me
Now, I'm not taking the man's pain lightly, but these artists need to realize that when you use auto-tune, it produces a shrill effect that makes lyrics like those above sound like they're coming from a whiny baby. So when Ye says "My friend showed me pictures of his kids/and all I could show him is pictures of my cribs" on "Welcome to Heartbreak," he sounds like a bank owner begging for a buyout while drinking Cristal on his private jet. It's hard to give sympathy.
Well, at least the beats are good, right? Nope. The man has produced some of the best tracks in the past five years but most of the beats here sound like something I made on my desktop. Even "standouts" like the upbeat "Paranoid" sound like background music from an old Nintendo game. I don't buy albums to listen to outtakes from Mario Bros 2.
I guess auto-tune fans will enjoy "Heartless" and "Robocop" - if you just tune out the annoying production I can see someone enjoying their campiness. But the fact that most of the songs sound like they were recorded in an empty soda can bothers me to no end.
It's a shame everything is so badly crafted. The live hidden track, "Pinocchio's Story," is a revealing look into Kanye's depression. Although it's touching, rambling on and on while using Optimus Prime's voice just doesn't make for good music. And isn't that the point of an album?
I'm sure someone will call this album genius and groundbreaking. "Different" does not equal "genius." The album is just a rushed and lazy excuse to hop on the auto-tune bandwagon. I can recite bad poetry into an electric fan and make this album in 30 minutes.
Lots of great albums have been born from pain. This ain't one of them.
Best tracks: Playa, please