Desert Island #6: 808s & Heartbreak

kanye-808sSince everyone’s pissed at Yeezy again, this seemed like the perfect week to write about how fucking great 808s & Heartbreak is (Kanye’s a dick, yeah yeah yeah.  Did you hear that Mark Kozelek is also not a nice man?  Shocking, I know).  It’s hard for me to quantify just how much this album changed for me the music I listen to and the way I approach hearing something for the first time.  Pre-808s I didn’t listen to a ton of rap, r&b, hip-hop, & popular music in general (mostly because I was dumb as hell and hadn’t entirely shaken my 14-year-old’s mindset with regard to that sort of thing.  Sad.)

Anyway, 808s & Heartbreak still sounds fresh as hell even with a hundred auto-tune hip-hop records released in its aftermath.  But none of those albums – Future, Drake, etc – they don’t exist without 808s being what it is (as my friend Jack said to me the other day – how many era shifts in rap can be marked by Kanye at this point?).  At the time this came out, it was not just a weird ass record, it was the last thing anyone expected from Kanye.  When I first heard it, it was the last thing I expected to hear from anyone.  The dichotomy of the sad robot vocals and utter, tear-your-guts-out-heart-on-your-sleeve emotions laced all over destroyed me.  The whole thing feels like it came from an alien world where early 00s pop music was synthesized via whatever bizarre, fucked-up technology they had handy.  Don’t tell me how Kanye can’t sing (he’s a better singer than people give him credit for actually), either, because on so many of these tunes his voice is just another instrument in the mix.  Musically, Kanye is fearless.  I can barely deal.

808s & Heartbreak was pivotal for me in that it proved just how great and forward-thinking popular music could be in the right hands, and that by ignoring such a large swath of tunes I was doing myself a huge disservice.  Even now I listen to this record at least two or three times a week.  It never gets old.