Album: 808s & Heartbreak
Artist: Kanye West
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records
At #16 on our countdown is the man who will undoubtedly claim to be #1 regardless, Kanye West, and his new album, 808s & Heartbreak. A late entry onto the list, 808s has received mixed reviews from critics and fans- some applauding his experimentation with auto-tune, while others show disappointment in his departure from previous works. I, of course, happen to be in the camp of those who enjoy this new record, albeit not as much as 2007's Graduation, but still, one which I definitely think highly of. When I first heard that Kanye would be singing, I was skeptical. For those who heard his new rendition of "Hey Mama" at the Grammy's last year, you knew he could pull it off, but for a whole album? Luckily, thanks to an auto-tune (which should be taken away from him when this tour's over), he's able to create a good hip hop/pop vibe.
Admittedly, West is very introspective on this album- staying true to the Heartbreak portion of the title. A break with his fiancee, Alexis Phifer, and his mother's death, in the past year, will do that to a person. These themes- love, breakups, and such- are extremely uncommon in reference to hip hop, which may contribute to the critics reasoning, but I find it to be a breath of fresh air. Only time will tell if this becomes a trendsetter in the genre, or even West's career. For all we know, he'll go right back to rhyming Coldplay with Coldplay in a year or so. Still, this initial effort is appreciated. As is always the case with a West record, you'll find some great beats- even if they're not up to the energy exuded by past efforts- that will get you moving. See "Heartless", "Love Lockdown", and "Paranoid (Feat. Mr. Hudson)" for examples. I'll end this with the following: This is NOT my #1 hip hop album of 2008- there's one more out there which I felt was better, and more true to the genre- so please, hold your criticisms. Comparisons for 808s include Lupe Fiasco, Usher and Akon.
Best Track: "Robocop"