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808s & Heartbreak

Messianic rapper Kanye West has survived grief and heartbreak to expands pop parameters on his new release.

Rating: 7 / 10

Alison Curtis, 16 Dec 2008

It doesn’t feel like that long ago since we had a record from Mr West – and it wasn’t. Graduation was released in 2007, but in the time between then and now Kanye has suffered many heartbreaks – hence half the title and the basis for this album. Just two months after Graduation hit the shops, his mother Donda died due to complications from cosmetic surgery; in addition he broke off his engagement to fiancée Alexis Phifer, as a result of which he found himself the subject of intense media scrutiny. (The 808s part of the title comes from the fact that the Roland TR-808 drum machine is used a lot). West himself describes the album as ‘pop’, claiming he felt rap limited the emotions he wanted to express. Truth be told, it is a sad and at times angry album – but perhaps most importantly, in terms of his development as an artist, very different from his previous three releases. The opening ‘Say You Will’ is six minutes of remorseful chanting, leading into ‘Welcome To The Heartbreak’, a song in which he invites his listeners to heal themselves. The only tiring part is the heavy reliance on autotune – just let him sing!

Key track: ‘Paranoid’

Rating: 7 / 10
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