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808s & Heartbreak
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this excellent album shows a different side of rapper Kanye West. He's switched from rapping to singing, and tackles the heavier subject matter of loss and loneliness. The lyrics are clean, with not even one expletive slipping out (a grand feat considering Young Jeezy and Lil' Wayne appear on the album).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
808s & HEARTBREAK is Kanye West's fourth CD and follows in the footsteps of his coming of age "education" trilogy, which featured the most recently released hit LP Graduation in 2007. After the release of that album, West experienced several personal challenges, including the widely publicized death of his mother. 808s has been described by West as "therapeutic" and the dozen tracks on the album deal with all aspects of loneliness, heartbreak, and sorrow. But West manages to add a positive spin to his struggles. The title comes from West's incorporation of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, which can be heard throughout the album.
Is it any good?
With a mix of speaking, rapping, and synthesized harmonies, West's vocals are approachable and heartfelt. He brings together elements like operatic samples, tribal drum beats, and Electronica to create a musical collage that works.
Auto-tune (pitch correction technology) is used sparingly by West and in just the right places. "RoboCop" and "Pinocchio Story" are two stand-out tracks on the album. "Streetlights" has an infectiously poetic chorus, "Things ain't always set in stone…seems like street lights glowing, happen to be just like moments passing in front of me, so I hopped in the cab and I paid my fare, see I know my destination, but I'm just not there."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how West has changed over the years. Do you think he is a better rapper or singer? On this album West experiments with various musical technologies. Do you think more artists should try new things like this? Why do you think West chose to release this album over Thanksgiving weekend? Do you think a lot of music is marketed for holiday gift buying?