Following a tumultuous year characterized by both triumph and tragedy, Kanye West spins his most personal and ambitious album yet on 808s & Heartbreak, a pop album by the rapper that contains little to no rapping at all. Rather than waking listeners up to the sounds of fame and fortune, West undermines his previously held perceptions of the good life as he comes to terms with his mother Donda's death, loneliness as a chart-topping artist and break-up with fiancee Alexis Phifer on the tracks littered throughout 808s.
With the exceptions of wonderful collaborations with Young Jeezy on the overconfident yet catchy "Amazing" and Lil Wayne on the raw and haunting "See You in My Nightmares," West wears his heart on his sleeve throughout the album. Using Auto-Tune and the Roland TR-808 drum machine, West creates a fantastic album marked by vulnerability and humility, attitudes seldom seen in the Chi-town rapper. Standout songs, including the introspective "Street Lights" and poignant "Pinocchio Story," highlight the rapper's discontentment with his success. "Coldest Winter" shows a sad West responding to his mother's death, while the album's first two singles "Love Lockdown" and "Heartless" allude to the complicated dynamics of deteriorating relationships and heartbreak.
Each track carries moving melodies on innovative instruments that strongly complement the rapper's emotive lyrics. Not only is 808s one of West's best works, but it also marks his growth both as an artist and as an individual attempting to make sense of ambition, hardship and life itself.