With auto tuners coming under fire from hip-hop fans and artists alike, with acts such as T-Pain and Lil’ Wayne embracing the back-in-full-effect musical toy, it’s a big risk for someone of Kanye West’s stature to even contemplate experimenting with one of these so-called instruments. But never to be outdone when it comes to a new trend or fashion, the Louis Vuitton Don spills all the pain and suffering he’s endured over the past year, stemming from losing his mother and splitting with his fiancée Alexis Phifer, on to an album fully supported by the auto tune gadget.
Having already experimented with it on the remix to Lil’ Wayne’s ‘Lollipop’ and Young Jeezy’s ‘I Put On’, it seems as if he just can’t get enough of the voice decoder apparatus and what it does to his voice. Every remix he’s appeared on as of late has him using it, but has the gamble of recording an entire album using it actually paid off? It seems to appear that way.
If you approach 808’s & Heartbreak as you would any other Kanye West album then you’ll without question be disappointed. Exchanging ninety percent of his rap lyrics for singing, and with one subject matter reigning supreme throughout – heartbreak, he’s taken a road less traveled when it comes to his usually abrupt yet comical area of hip-hop. Enjoying this release is all to do with how you perceive what Kanye is attempting to do. He’s not trying to be the world’s best singer, nor is he trying to flip hip-hop on its head and have people look at it like, “Ok, this is the way hip-hop is now then.” He’s past all of that now. He’s already established that he’s a production genius, now he’s dipping his toe in to a completely different genre.
Highlights include the after hours joint ‘Street Lights’. Managing to take you away from the rest of the album vocally while giving you something lyrically to ponder over, the midnight New York backdrop vision purposely stuck in your head is a nice touch. There’s also the pump-up-your-fist anthem ‘See You In My Nightmares’, which features a quirky set off bars from man-of-the-moment Lil Wayne, which will have you wanting to step up to the plate and fight for what’s yours. In need of a lift due to a bad day? This is the joint you need on repeat in your system.
Concentrating more on the beat work, ‘Say You Will’ introduces Kanye’s new sound with a passionate song sung in a high pitch using the auto tune toy. Over a simplistic yet highly motivational piece of production, the beat is left to play out the final three minutes. It’s a piece of music you can’t help but draw so many feelings from. Mr. Hudson even pops up on the album’s fastest cut, ‘Paranoid’, with its electro eighties influence giving you something to dance to. Complete with aluminous pink and green shirts, there’s no skipping this club banger.
The only lackluster moment comes when Kanye try’s too hard to run with a slice of word association. After what is now known as the ‘Soulja Boy’ dance, Kanye drops ‘Robocop’. Complete with sound effects, the beat’s sloppy, and while Mr. West sounds like he’s having fun his lyrics just make no sense whatsoever. There’s a distinct possibility that he might have sipped a bit too much Patrone whilst recording this one.
Change is good, and while first impressions of “808’s & Heartbreak” were not that positive, the album is unquestionably a grower to the point that you’ll fall in love with it and won’t ever be able to put it down. There’s no heartbreak here. Kanye West is now in a league of his own.