Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years, you’ve come to realize that, like it or not, Kanye West rules the hip-hop genre with an iron fist. His samples, creativity, and antics enthrall you, whether you fell in love with “Stronger” and “Gold Digger” or whether you believe he’s just another under-talented, oversized ego who has butchered your favorite classics. I have always placed myself in the former category: a hesitant Kanye-believer; equal parts amazed at and afraid of what he will do next. That is why I am able to take 808s and Heartbreaks, ‘Ye’s newest effort, with a grain of salt. Mr. West has always been and will always be on the cutting edge in terms of beat creation, fashion, and musical stylings. He legitimized sampling, made “shutter shades” cool, and aspired to not only quality but also creativity with each music video he released.
For those of you who don’t know, 808s and Heartbreaks is an album stocked with R&B type songs that feature ‘Ye “singing” through Antares Autotune, more commonly known as “that program that T-Pain uses to make his voice do that thing.” Upon hearing this news, I was devastated. Not only can I not stand that kind of music or singing one bit, but I expected an even more dance-able, radio-ready output from one of my favorite rappers. Then I got to thinking. If Kanye decided to make his new album an extension of the synth-heavy and hook-laden Late Registration or Graduation, he would just be making more of the same. If he went back to his percussion and lyricism-heavy style featured on College Dropout, he’d be taking a step backwards in terms of creativity. While I cannot say that I really enjoy any songs that Kanye has put up on his site from the new album, I at least commend him for continuing his trend of being a pioneer, whether the results are good or, in this case, awful. In a hip-hop scene that has become increasingly stale and formulaic, it’s refreshing to see an artist try something altogether new, even if it disappoints.
On that note, check out this remix of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” laid over the immaculate guitar riff from Radiohead’s “Reckoner”, courtesy of DJ Earworm. Also, head over to IGIF where Connor has posted the originals of “Love Lockdown” and the second single, “Heartless”. While you’re over there, be sure to check out the rotoscoped video for “Heartless”.
Here’s to Kanye at least pushing the boundaries and breaking the boring formulas that dominate the rap-genre right now (I’m looking at you Weezy, T-Pain, etc.). Now let’s hope his next album is not only controversial and creative, but doesn’t kinda….sorta….suck.