Six years ago today, Chicago’s very own Kanye West dropped a gem that would forever change the hip hop industry. Some people still don’t understand the influence and importance of this album after six years. 808s & Heartbreak was definitely ahead of its time musically but it was just what the game needed at that time whether people realize it or not.
This album was nothing like any other hip hop artist made before and it opened the window for opportunity majorly. At the end of the day, nobody is like Ye but he definitely influenced artists to explore their music in a more creative way. We may have Michael Jackson to thank for 808s and Heartbreak after Ye shared how the great heard his vocals on “Good Life” and thought they were amazing. There were also other unfortunate events that occurred that contributed to the album, including the death of his mother and the end of his engagement with his longtime girlfriend Alexis at the time.
After the release of this electro pop album we started hearing multiple covers from artists and tracks that definitely gave that 808 vibe. Some of our favorite products of this influence have to be the different covers to Ye’s “Say You Will” track. It was something about it that made artists open up about the struggles that came along with fame and we loved every second of it. Big Sean, who had been signed to G.O.O.D Music for about 2 years at that time, dropped his version on his second mixtape UKNOWBIGSEAN. He vented about the limbo like state he seemed to be in after not receiving any mainstream attention for so long. Drake also blessed us with a “Say What’s Real” track on his breakout mixtape So Far Gone. Drake poured his soul out on the track and from that point on his career went no where but up.
This album was a huge risk for Kanye because musically it sounded so different from what his fans and the industry was used to. He had just released Graduation a year before and this was a complete 180. Before the Yeezus tour, Kendrick spoke with Vibe magazine and expressed how 808s & Heartbreak could’ve ruined Ye but it was done so well that it easily is one of his greatest albums. He stated, “he wasn’t really rapping on it, but that was the chance he took to be ahead of the game.”
The type of move Kanye made by releasing 808s & Heartbreak was a game changer and it had definitely inspired other talented artists to do the same. This business seems like it can get hard to deal with especially when fans and listeners get attached to a certain sound. We see that struggle with artists like Kendrick Lamar today. Internal battles can make or break your music but when those emotions and feelings are instilled in the music and an artist is being completely honest, the music speaks for itself.
With that being said, we would like to thank Kanye West for going against the grain and delivering us this iconic album that will go down as one of the most influential and beautiful pieces of work to bless the music industry. And if you don’t agree now you probably will later. Celebrate the six year anniversary of 808s & Heartbreak by checking out his VH1 Storytellers episode below!