Kanye West

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 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

808s & Heartbreak
  • Music