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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Kanye West has this music thing on Lockdown

Love him or hate him, Kanye West has got a knack for cranking out hits and brilliant albums. Mr. West does it again with his latest release 808 and Heartbreaks (Roc-A-Fella Records), released last week to impressive sales.

The thing with reviewing Kanye West is that when reviewing his latest album, there’s really not too much comparison one can make between it and his previous releases. Sure he may use some of the same techniques, but West is one of those artists who always keeps listeners on their toes and offers up new and refreshing takes on music.

The first we heard of Kanye was his using synthed backbeats of Chaka Kahn (“Through the Wire”), 70’s beats sped up to fit the tempo of his flows and gospel-like hits (“Jesus Walks,” arguably one of the most powerful songs in a very long time). He then experimented with more pop sounds with his Late Registration, though still remained true to his love for fresh updates on old classics (“Touch the Sky” is actually a slowed down version of Curtis Mayfield’s 1970’s hit “Move on Up,” whom you can definitely tell influenced West’s sound.) Then, in 2007, the world was introduced to an out-of-this world (literally) spaceman version of Kanye on the smash hit Graduation. With Graduation, he traded in the classics for more contemporary backbeats (like Daft Punk in “Stronger”) and he became more familiar and comfortable with the use of electronica in his beats. Now with his latest album, it seems that he’s continued to progress forward, further into the genre of hip-hop/pop, now permeating his tunes with T-Pain/Lil Wayne-esque sound machines. In fact, Lil Wayne makes an appearance on, in my opinion, the best track of the CD, “See You in My Nightmares.” I guess the only comparisons between all of his albums (both studio-released and mixed tapes) is the master lyricism he brings to the table and the seemingly effortless flow that it seems only Kanye West is capable of.

Of course his lyrics are good. I always give Kanye crap about the fact that he does tend to rhyme words with themselves (see “Robocop” on his latest CD, where he effectively rhymes “Robocop” with itself four-times over in the bridge) but even despite his repetition, with 808s Kanye has taken his songwriting and his message to another level. Sure you have the old standbys, talking about the fame and the money and his Louis V (spit in the only way Kanye knows how-with full out arrogance and cockiness). But beneath all the synthetic beats and heavy African drums, you can really hear a guy who has been beaten down and refuses to give up. Surely the death of his mother had a huge impact on his songwriting for this album, as practically every song makes some metaphorical mention of the loss of his mother or calls for his listeners to appreciate what they’ve got before it’s gone. 808s and Heartbreaks is Kanye’s most cathartic record to date. You can feel the frustration and pain, as well as the plain annoyance Kanye feels with the media and his haters. In short, he channels his anger at the media, women in his life, and society in general into a great CD with killer beats. The album, in fact, seems to parallel West’s own personal diary, lamenting and venting on his own terms.

The genius of Kanye is that he can make an impact without the listener being consciously aware that they are being spoken to. Again, it’s fun to bounce around to his bubbly beats or revel in his harder jams, but when you really listen to the songs, amidst the brilliantly-produced rhythms are lines that will make you think.

I always find myself shaking my head after an artist or a band releases a really stellar album, fearing that they did too much too soon. With Graduation being one of the first CD’s in a while that commanded full rotation on my iPod, I kind of feared disappointment that Kanye’s new musical adventure wouldn’t be able to demand the same diligence of listening. If he took it to the next level with Graduation, how would he ever be able to top it? Well, with 808’s and Heartbreaks, he did.

Must download song: “See You in My Nightmares” ft. Lil Wayne

About the Contributor
Amy Julian served as the arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2008-2009;