808s & Heartbreak After three academia-themed album titles — 2004's The College Dropout , 2005's Late Registration , and last year's Graduation — one could forgive Kanye for… 808s & Heartbreak After three academia-themed album titles — 2004's The College Dropout , 2005's Late Registration , and last year's Graduation — one could forgive Kanye for… 2008-11-24 Kanye West Hip-Hop/Rap
Music Review

808s & Heartbreak (2008)

Kanye West | Owner of a lonely heart : Kanye West exposes his soft side
Owner of a lonely heart: Kanye West exposes his soft side
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Release Date: Nov 24, 2008; Lead Performance: Kanye West; Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

After three academia-themed album titles — 2004's 
The College Dropout, 2005's 
Late Registration, and last year's Graduation — one could forgive Kanye for following up with, 
 say, LSATs, Here I Come! Instead, the Chicago rapper hangs a dramatic left on 808s & Heartbreak, an album whose frosty, minimal sound backs lyrics of surprisingly raw emotion.

Gone, for the most part, are 
 the silver-tongued boasts and 
 exhaustive cataloging of material goods; instead, mournful tales of heartbreak dominate (understandably so: This past year, West suffered both the sudden death of his mother and the breakup of a long-term engagement). "My friend showed me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was 
 pictures of my cribs," he intones forlornly on the piano-laced 
 "Welcome to Heartbreak," and 
 on the stuttering "Heartless," he confesses, "Well, I got homies/
 But in the end it's still so lonely."

And yet musically, bummed never translates into bummer. Lighter moments like "Robocop," a witty ode to an irresistible but wacked-out ladyfriend ("Just lookin' at your history/You're like the girl from Misery"), provide an aural palate cleanser, and his flair for wordplay remains gratifyingly intact, if somewhat muted. No doubt the self-dubbed Louis Vuitton Don will return at some point to the black-AmEx club tracks that made his name. In the meantime, he offers this glimpse of the soul beneath the swagger, and we like him better for it. A–

Download This: Listen to the song ''Welcome to Heartbreak'' on imeem.com

Originally posted Nov 25, 2008 Published in issue #1024 Dec 05, 2008 Order article reprints