West leaves lasting impact on industry with 808s & Heartbreak


Cam Meyer, Editor In-Chief

Kanye West’s fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak, was released on November 24, 2008, and marked a significant departure from his previous projects. The album features heavy uses of auto-tune and electronic production, as well as introspective and emotional lyrics dealing with love and loss.

Love and loss are shown especially in “Welcome to Heartbreak,” where Kanye is speaking to a friend who shows him photos and accomplishments of his family, but all West has to show are items for himself, since he is now alone. “My friend showed me pictures of his kids / And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs / He said his / daughter got a brand new report card / And all I got was a brand new sports car.”

One of the most notable aspects of the album, hence the name, is its reliance on the Roland TR-808 machine, which gives the album its signature futuristic sound. The use of the TR-808 is different from works of West’s past albums as they were heavily influenced by soul and R&B music. The machine also helped create the project’s electronic sound, before further being enhanced with the use of auto-tune on many of the album’s tracks, according to genius.com.

The lyrics on 808s & Heartbreak are notable for their emotional depth and self-analysis. Most songs deal with love and loss, with West exploring his feelings of heartbreak and sadness. The album is often seen as a reflection of West’s struggles, including the recent passing of his mother and the end of his engagement to fashion designer Alexis Phifer.

In “Pinocchio Story,” West tears himself apart lyrically, blaming himself for his Mother’s death. “To get my heart out of this hell / And my mind out of this jail / There is no clothes that I could buy / That could turn back in time / There is no vacation spot I could fly / That could bring back a piece of real life / Real life, what does it feel like?” That piece of real life, being his mother.

Despite the departure from West’s previous sound and style, 808s & Heartbreak received widespread critical acclaim upon its release. Many critics praised the album’s innovation and the raw emotion present in West’s lyrics. The album was a commercial success to say the least, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 450,000 copies in its first week.

In addition to its positive impact on West’s career, 808s & Heartbreak has also had a lasting impact on the music industry as a whole. The album’s use of auto-tune and electronic production has been widely imitated by other artists, such as Travis Scott, Juice WRLD, and Drake, and the album has been credited with helping to popularize the use of these techniques in mainstream music.

Overall, 808s & Heartbreak is a significant and influential album in Kanye West’s career and the broader context of mainstream music. Its innovative production and emotionally charged lyrics are shown in all tracks, but mostly in “Street Lights,” “Pinocchio Story,” and “Paranoid,” which have made it a classic of the 21st century and a testament to West’s artistic vision and talent.