by Kanye West
One of the greatest strengths of Kanye Wests' three previous studio albums as rapper and producer was their diversity. On 2004's debut The College Dropout in particular, he covered an enormous amount of stylistic distance, jumping from driving gospel-tinged military march (Jesus Walks) to demented string-heavy instructional tape parody (The New Workout Plan) in the space of a couple of songs, and taking in such far-ranging topics as race, education, politics, and of course the vital importance of Hitting That. He extended this pick-n'-mix approach to collaborators, gleefully bringing in a wide range of guest vocalists and casting them against type, getting well-respected if slightly obscure 'conscious' rappers like Talib Kweli and Common to loosen up and rap about about pulling chicks (Get Em High) while bringing out a slightly deeper side of mainstream artists like Jay-Z (Never Let Me Down).
Given that this energetic eclecticism was such a strength of his previous work, it is something of a surprise that his latest album, 808s and Heartbreak, is almost wholly composed of Kanye himself abandoning rap to sing whiny vocoder-heavy ditties about being dumped by his girlfriend, with beyond-parody titles like 'Heartless', Paranoid' and 'Welcome To Heartbreak'. Over and over again. For an entire album. What is even more of a surprise is that the end results are surprisingly bearable, and indeed in places are actually pretty fucking awesome.
Far better than it had any right to be on paper.
Buy 808's and Heartbreak on Amazon now!
Let's take it back to '04! OLD SCHOOL.