Album review: Kanye West - 808s & heartbreak

Review: Kanye West - 808s & heartbreak | Random J Pop

When Kanye called the album 808s & heartbreak, he was not joking. 12 tracks of literally nothing but 808s and fucking heartbreak. He honestly couldn't have given the album a more fitting title.

The album is divided pretty evenly between typical Kanye joints with new twists and the all new sparse and minimal 'singing Kanye' joints. It's the all new singing Kanye which impacts you first. the second you start playing this album. We've all heard "Love lockdown" right? Well the album kicks off with a song in the same vein: "Say you will" - which has Kanye dragging us into his world of nothing but 808's and heartbreak. "Say you will" is a hauntingly stunning song with its choral lines, sparse congo drums and piano. This song sets the tone for most of the album, which is simplicity. The song features no frills, no beat switches, no amazingly intricate musical flourishes - but is all the better for it. There are large sections where Kanye doesn't even utter a word. Yet the song still manages to captivate. "Bad news" tows the exact same line: 808s, sparse congos, tabla's and a piano. The main difference hear is the tempo is more up-beat and song is uplifted with some beautifully arranged strings. "Welcome to heartbreak" is much more old school Kanye in it's approach due to its drums and more (for the lack of a better term) 'typical hip-hop' beat. It's a good song, but it feels lacking. The song sounds like it could've benefited from more production time.

For those who were wondering where that old school Ye was hiding needn't worry, as he emerges for the album's second single "Heartless". This is a song I love more and more with each listen. The beat is hot, Kanye's flow is air tight, and the chorus is as catchy as a flu. The song is a certified hood banger. Just try and resist stepping to this in a club. You won't be able to, so don't even try. Kanye plays the rapping card again on the song "Paranoid". The track is saturated in every 80's cliché you can conjure up. This has to be a single. I could only imagine the kind of conceptual video Kanye would do for it. The same goes for "RoboCop". A song I hated when it first leaked, but now love completely. It's crazy mix of auto tuned vocals, harsh gun fire snare and Disney-esque parade strings shouldn't fuse together so well, but they do, and it makes for such a sonically interesting song. "Amazing" is another typical Ye joint with a twist: sounding like a fusion of "Love lockdown" and "Jesus walks" - the song is as the title implies, amazing. The drums and 808's knock hard and piano cause the song to feel like some form of march, or long slog. It's just a shame that with such an emotionally evoking musical backdrop, the lyrics of the song lack substance - being nothing more than lines of self glorification. Something which isn't helped with Young Jeezy's verse. He needs to hit a doctor and get his throat checked. I'm tired of listening to him rap with a voice that sounds like he's guzzled every dick at a hip hop convention.

For all of the good songs the album yields, there are a couple of stumbles. "Street lights" does nothing for me. Behind it all there lies a good song, but the execution just feels wrong. Female vocalist Esthero's vocals drown Kanye out and the vocal processing drowns him even further. Causing the song to sound a bit of a mess. Second stumble comes with "See you in my nightmares". Why? Because it features Lil' Wayne. I'm sick of this black swamp creature featuring on every-bodies songs these days. It's a shame, because the song itself is good and the production is really nice. But Lil' Wayne deal breaks it for me completely. Kanye may as well have gone one better and had T-Pain feature too. I could only imagine what that studio session would be like. Three n***as playing around with auto-tune.

The album closer "Coldest winter" had to get its own paragraph, because I love it that much. "Coldest winter" for me is one of the best songs Kanye West has ever done. The song is nothing short of amazing. It's a wonderful tribute to his mother and the rawness of the song is highlighted by the fact that Kanye's vocals are not auto tuned. A fitting close to the album and one of the few songs on the album where Kanye's heartbreak and pain actually comes through.

808s & heartbreak is a solid album. Kanye West gets a big thumbs up for switching up his sound completely. The main problem with this album is that the sound does wear thin after a while. There's only so much tribal percussion, auto tuning, 808's and listening to the same reverbed snare that one can take. The vocal processing in particular feels over used. At least 70% of the songs on the album could've done without it. It causes whatever anguish and pain Kanye is feeling on some of the songs to go un-felt, due to how disconnected and distant tit causes him to sound. Some songs he's near enough incoherent because his vocals are so muddy and muffled. I know Kanye's has expressed love for auto tuning and vocal processing, but he over did it. He also could've rapped with a bit more feeling. That hunger in Kanye that I loved on The college dropout feels absent on some of the songs here due to Kanye's dead pan delivery. But I guess that's what heartbreak can do to a n***a.

Still, this is most certainly my favourite Kanye West album after The college dropout because the songs are so distinct, Kanye stuck to a style, and he chose to look outside the box which has continued to pigeon hole rap and hip-hop.

RATING: 7 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Say you will
■ Heartless
■ Amazing
■ Paranoid
■ RoboCop
■ Love lockdown
■ Coldest winter ★ J's fave


  1. Welcome to heartbreak" is much more old school Kanye in it's approach due to its drums and more (for the lack of a better term) 'typical hip-hop' beat. It's a good song, but it feels lacking. The song sounds like it could've benefitted from more production time.

    I gotta disagree here. But have you heard the original version that dropped before the final? There was no piano, and it sounded darker. Some people liked it better than the final version.

    I can't remember the last time I've listened to an album so much though. I love damn near every single song. "Say You Will" was a weak one for me at first, but it's grown into a favorite.

    Oooh I gotta disagree about "Street Lights" though. I LOVE that song! It's so simple, but so effective for me. And when the background vocals come in on the second verse, I got chills the first time.

    There isn't one time I go through "RoboCop" without smiling. That and "Paranoid" have HIT written all over them.

    Good review! :)

  2. This was a fabulous review, I think the album wasn't as bad as I thought after listening to it for a couple times it has grown on me.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Oh yeah, a little tidbit, in a recent interview, Kanye said that he actually didn't even use the 808s that much. He used the 909s drum machine most of the time. He just use 808s on the album title because it fit better I guess, and it sounds better with "Heartbreak".

    Oh yeah, forgot to mention, I think the two songs that utilize the drums the best are "Amazing" and "Coldest Winter", with my latter being the favorite because of how much they build up towards the end. Intense! As for "Amazing", I think I rewind to the very beginning so much just because of how cool the drums sound.

  5. wtf at "Robocop". I wish the album version didn't have to switch it up by getting rid of the explosions during the verses adding more violin. That kind of messed it up for me and the end was weird. Still a good album.

  6. I liked the addition of the violin's. They're what made me like the song more. The ending WAS stupid though. "Spoilt little LA girl!" What was the point!? It was completely unecessary. I hate it so much I edited the song and cut that bit out.

  7. I just skip to "Street Lights" when that part comes on, lol. And the added strings are the reason why I love the song so much!


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