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808s & Heartbreak

808s & Heartbreak

808s & Heartbreak is the fourth studio album by American hip hop producer and vocalist Kanye West. It was released on November 24, 2008, by Roc-A-Fella Records. West recorded the album during September and October 2008 at Glenwood Studios in Burbank, California and Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii, with the help of producers No I.D., Jeff Bhasker and others. The album features guest appearances from Kid Cudi, Young Jeezy, Mr Hudson, and Lil Wayne.

Conceived in the wake of several distressing personal events, 808s & Heartbreak marked a major musical departure from West's previous rap records, instead featuring a sparse, electronic sound and West singing through an Auto-Tune vocal processor. His lyrics explore themes of loss, alienated fame, and heartache, while the album's production abandons conventional hip hop sounds in favor of a minimalist sonic palette, which includes prominent use of the titular Roland TR-808 drum machine.

808s & Heartbreak debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 450,145 copies in its first week. Despite varying responses from listeners, the album received positive reviews from most critics and was named one of 2008's best records in several year-end lists. Four singles were released to promote the record, including the hit singles "Love Lockdown" and "Heartless".

808s & Heartbreak has since been cited as a prominent influence on subsequent hip hop, pop, and R&B music, as a new wave of rappers, singers, and producers came to adopt aspects of its style and thematic content.[1] By 2013, it had sold 1.7 million copies in the United States.

808s & Heartbreak
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 24, 2008 (2008-11-24)
RecordedSeptember – October 2008
  • Glenwood in Burbank
  • Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu
  • Electropop
  • synth-pop
  • R&B
  • art pop
  • experimental pop
  • Jay Z (exec.)
  • Kanye West (also exec.)
  • Gee Roberson (exec.)
  • Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua (exec.)
  • Jeff Bhasker
  • Mr Hudson
  • No I.D.
  • Plain Pat
Kanye West chronology
808s & Heartbreak
VH1 Storytellers
Singles from 808s & Heartbreak
  1. "Love Lockdown"
    Released: September 18, 2008
  2. "Heartless"
    Released: November 4, 2008
  3. "Amazing"
    Released: March 10, 2009
  4. "Paranoid"
    Released: March 23, 2009


Following the release of his third studio album Graduation, the remainder of 2007 and the following year featured events that profoundly affected Kanye West. On November 10, 2007, West's mother Donda West died due to complications arising following cosmetic surgery involving a tummy tuck and breast reduction procedure.[2] Months later, West and fiancée Alexis Phifer ended their engagement and their long-term intermittent relationship, which had begun in 2002.[3] At the same time, West struggled to adapt to his newfound pop star status he once strove to achieve, often becoming the subject of media scrutiny.[4] The loss, loneliness and longing for companionship and a sense of normality served to inspire 808s & Heartbreak.[5] West stated that "This album was therapeutic – it's lonely at the top."[6]

West felt that his emotions could not be fully expressed simply through rapping, which he said had limitations. There were "melodies that were in me", he explained. "What was in me I couldn't stop."[7] West went to classify 808s & Heartbreak as a pop album, asserting his disdain towards the contemporary backlash to the concept of pop music and expressed admiration for what some pop stars have accomplished in their careers.[8] He later stated that he wishes to present the music as a new genre called "pop art," clarifying that he was well aware of the visual art movement of the same name and wished to present a musical equivalent.[9] "Either call it 'pop' or 'pop art,' either one I'm good with," he later stated.[9]

Recording and production

West (center) working on the album with his former mentor, producer No I.D. (left).

West (center) working on the album with his former mentor, producer No I.D. (left).

The Roland TR-808, the titular drum machine which served as a primary instrument on 808s & Heartbreak.

The Roland TR-808, the titular drum machine which served as a primary instrument on 808s & Heartbreak.

The album was recorded over a span of approximately three weeks from September to October 2008.[10] Recording sessions took place at Glenwood Studios in Burbank, California and at Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii.[11] As implied by its title, 808s & Heartbreak prominently features the Roland TR-808 drum machine. Drawing inspiration from 1980s synthpop and electropop performers such as Phil Collins, Gary Numan, TJ Swan and Boy George, West felt that the 808 is a resourceful instrument that can be used to evoke emotion; the concept was introduced to him by Jon Brion.[12][13] West utilized the sounds created by the 808 and manipulated its pitch to produce a distorted, electronic sound, an effect he referred to as "heartbreak". He felt the characteristic of the sound was representative of his state of mind.[9] According to West, the fact that Hawaii's area code was "808" was coincidental, as he had already developed the album's title before being informed.[14] The realization inspired him to pursue his direction with the album, however.[10] In terms of musical direction, West's intentions, according to Mike Dean, were to go against the typical sound of hip hop beat, instead evoking the presence of tribal drums.[15] Overall, West maintained a "minimal but functional" approach towards the album's studio production.[12][16]

The album makes prominent use of the voice audio processor technology of Auto-Tune. West had previously experimented with the technology on The College Dropout for the background vocals of "Jesus Walks" and "Never Let Me Down", but he had not used it for lead vocals until 2008. "We were working on the remixes for Lil Wayne's 'Lollipop' and Young Jeezy's 'Put On' and he fell in love with the Auto-Tune", producer Mike Dean explained.[15] Towards the end, West enlisted T-Pain for coaching on how to utilize the technology.[14] West himself openly stated that he loved using Auto-Tune and was dismayed that the term has been commonly associated with being "wack".[17] He considers the technology "the funnest thing to use" and compared the situation to when he was a child and thought the color pink was cool until someone told him "it was gay", producing an analogy of how the views of society can rob people of their confidence and self-esteem.[17] He later went on to state that he enjoyed the electronic feel produced by Auto-Tune and sought out to juxtapose the mechanical sounds with the traditional sounds of taiko drums and choir monks.[18]

West credits rapper Kid Cudi, who had signed with his G.O.O.D. Music record label, with assisting in the creation of the album's stark, brooding sound.[19][20] After receiving a copy of his 2008 mixtape A Kid Named Cudi, West became an avid fan, especially in regards to the hit single "Day 'n' Nite."[19] West surprised Kid Cudi with a phone call, and had him flown over to Hawaii to work on 808s & Heartbreak. The pair worked side by side in the studio while playing films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind silently. In the end, Kid Cudi co-wrote four songs on 808s & Heartbreak.[19] In an interview, West told Rolling Stone, "His writing is just so pure and natural and important. [That's] more important than where things chart."[19]

Young Jeezy contributed a rap verse on the track "Amazing" while "See You in My Nightmares" is a duet with Lil Wayne. Singer-songwriter Esthero provided the few female vocals found on the album; credited under birth name Jenny-Bea Englishman, she co-wrote three tracks.[21] When "RoboCop" appeared on the Internet, West disclaimed responsibility and was upset that the leak had occurred as the track was an unfinished version.[22] Mike Dean had previously stated that the track was expected to receive additional treatment by Herbie Hancock before the album's release.[15]

Music and lyrics

808s & Heartbreak is a radical departure from West's previous hip hop albums.[23] According to The Independent, West abandoned his customary hip hop sound in favor of sparse, drum machine-based electropop;[24] Pitchfork's Scott Plagenhoef categorized the album as "an introspective, minimal electro-pop record",[25] and 33⅓ writer Kirk Walker Graves said its music is avant-garde electropop.[26] In the opinion of Rolling Stone's Brian Hiatt, the record was a "downbeat detour into depressive electro pop",[27] while another writer for the magazine called it an "introspective, synthpop album",[28] According to Arsh Bains from 36 Chapters, the genres electropop, synthpop, and experimental pop were a few of the many categorizations offered for the album after it was released.[29]

The music of 808s & Heartbreak draws heavily on electronic elements, particularly virtual synthesis, the Roland TR-808 drum machine, and explicitly auto-tuned vocal tracks.[30] Tracks on the album utilize step input drum machine and synth-bass parts.[30] Step input sequencing, a product of vintage analogue devices limited to recording only 16 individual notes, was popular in music production during the 1980s,[31] but also became available in digital workstations.[32] The album's music features austere production and elements such as dense drums, lengthy strings, droning synths, and somber piano.[33] Andy Kellman of AllMusic writes of the music, "Several tracks have almost as much in common with irrefutably bleak post-punk albums, such as New Order's Movement and The Cure's Pornography, as contemporary rap and R&B."[33] These musical elements help convey moods of despair and dejection that reflect the album's subject matter.[33] For The A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin described the album's music as "split[ting] the difference between the auto-tune R&B of T-Pain and the glacial electronic atmospherics of '80s new wave at its loneliest."[34] NJ.com columnist Trist McCall wrote that the record "stripped modern art-pop down to its iconic rudiments — beats, charismatic personalities, hand-selected melodies, and computer-assisted vocals."[35]

West's singing has been characterized as "flat" and "nearly unmelodic" which "underscores his own cyborgish detachment."[36][33] Andre Grant of HipHopDX wrote that "to combat this trenchant melancholia, he poured himself into an all-autotunes R&B album" which would prove divisive in hip hop.[37] Canadian writer Stephen Marche viewed that West used "the shallow musical gimmickry of Auto-Tune, a program designed to eliminate individuality, and produced a hauntingly personal album."[38]

Most of West's lyrics are directed at an ex-lover.[33] In Robert Christgau's opinion, 808s & Heartbreak is a "slow, sad-ass and self-involved ... breakup album",[36] while Plagenhoef found it "steeped in regret, pain, and even more self-examination than a typical Kanye West album".[25] West refers to an ex-lover's treatment of him as "the coldest story ever told" on "Heartless", and on "RoboCop", she is called a "spoiled little L.A. girl" comparable to the antagonist in the 1990 film Misery.[33] On "Paranoid", West describes a lover who "worries about the wrong things" and is pushing him away with her distrustful ways of thinking.[16] With the introspective "Love Lockdown", West discusses the aftermath of a failed romantic relationship.[39] On "Welcome to Heartbreak", West's character faces an existential crisis as he dispassionately recounts sitting alone on a flight, with a laughing family seated ahead of him.[33] The song harbors lamentful lyrics that reflect on the cost of past decisions and the emptiness of fame and luxury.[40] West longs for his late mother on the album's penultimate track "Coldest Winter."[33] The track contains an interpolation of the desolate 1983 song "Memories Fade" by Tears for Fears.[11] According to Robert Christgau, the closing "Pinocchio Story" is "the only track here about what's really bringing [West] down: not the loss of his girlfriend but the death of his mother, during cosmetic surgery that somewhere not too deep down he's sure traces all too directly to his alienated fame."[36]


The artwork for 808s & Heartbreak followed the minimalist style of the album. The cover art features a deflated heart-shaped balloon.[41] It was photographed by Kristen Yiengst and designed by Virgil Abloh and Willo Perron,[42] and the deluxe edition's artwork was made by pop artist Kaws.[41][11] The album's artwork also include photographs of West, taken by Willy Vanderperre,[11] and a photograph of West kissing his mother on the cheek, taken by Danny Clinch.[11][42] In 2013, Complex named it the best rap album cover of the past five years.[43]

Release and promotion

West performed at the Virgin Mobile Festival leading up to the album's release.

West performed at the Virgin Mobile Festival leading up to the album's release.

On September 24, West announced that he had finished the album and would be releasing it sometime in November. In his blog post, he wrote "I changed my album to November something cause I finished the album and I felt like it..I want y'all to hear it as soon as possible".[44] West later stated that the album would be released on November 25, 2008.[45] However, Island Def Jam, the distributing label, brought the date forward by one day to capitalize on Thanksgiving weekend.[46] 808s & Heartbreak was also released on November 24, 2008 in the United Kingdom and the Philippines.[47] A limited edition in a digipak case was first released in Germany on November 21, 2008.[47] A special edition of the album was released on December 16 that contains the album in CD and dual LP format, and also features album artwork redone by the artist of the original cover, Kaws.[48]

On October 16, West released an excerpt of "Coldest Winter" on the radio station Power 106 in Los Angeles. The track recreates elements of the song "Memories Fade" by the band Tears for Fears.[49] The song "Paranoid" later leaked onto the Internet and features Mr Hudson in the chorus. A remixed version of "Paranoid" was reported to feature pop singer Rihanna, but did not materialize.[50] Also appearing prior to the release date were "Amazing" featuring Young Jeezy, "See You in My Nightmares" featuring Lil Wayne, "Street Lights", "Say You Will", "Welcome to Heartbreak" and "Bad News".[50] An additional track, "Pinocchio Story" is a freestyle recorded at a live concert in Singapore. It was included in the album at the request of Beyoncé Knowles.[51]

On October 14, West, in collaboration with Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft, hosted a promotional album listening event at Ace Gallery.[52] Over 700 guests were invited to preview the entirety of 808s & Heartbreak. Under Beecroft's guidance, the event featured approximately forty nude women wearing nothing besides wool masks who silently stood in the center of the room.[52] The women were illuminated by multicolored lights that would change as the music progressed.[52] When it came time for him to speak, West stated that he'd been a fan of Beecroft's work and strong imagery, saying that he liked the idea of nudity because "society told us to wear clothes at a certain point". Beecroft had been contacted a month prior and conceptualized and generated the installation in a week.[52] Beecroft admitted that while he had caught her offguard, she had the opportunity to hear the album for herself and heard things that touched her own life.[52] Five days later, promotional photos for the album by photographer Willy Vanderperre were released. The images portrayed West wearing a grey glen plaid suit, large browline glasses, and a heart-shaped pin.[53]

In October 2009, West was scheduled to embark on a tour, Fame Kills: Starring Kanye West and Lady Gaga tour, in promotion of 808s & Heartbreak and Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster. It was canceled on October 1, 2009, without reason.[54] Several songs from the album were performed by West during his live VH1 Storytellers performance, such as "Heartless", "Amazing" and "Say You Will."[55] In the interim, director Nabil Elderkin directed two additional promotional videos for the album. "Welcome to Heartbreak", which featured an artistic use of liberal compression artifacts, was released in June 2009. A remixed version of "Coldest Winter" was released in February 2010. This video featured a woman in a wedding gown running away from a cult group through a moonlit forest.

On September 26, 2015, West performed the album in its entirety at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.[56] On October 20, 2015, West released a remix of "Say You Will" featuring vocals by American composer and violinist Caroline Shaw onto his SoundCloud account.[57]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[33]
The A.V. ClubB[60]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[61]
The Guardian4/5 stars[62]
The Independent3/5 stars[63]
MSN Music (Consumer Guide)A−[36]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[64]
The Sunday Times5/5 stars[65]
USA Today4/4 stars[66]

808s & Heartbreak received generally positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 75, based on 36 reviews.[59] Chris Richards from The Washington Post called it "an information-age masterpiece",[67] while USA Today critic Steve Jones said "West deftly uses the 808 drum machine and Auto-Tune vocal effect to channel his feelings of hurt, anger and doubt through his well-crafted lyrics".[66] Dan Cairns from The Sunday Times stated, "This so should not work...Yet 808s & Heartbreak is a triumph, recklessly departing from the commercially copper-bottomed script and venturing far beyond West’s comfort zone."[65] Rolling Stone's Jody Rosen commended West's incorporation of the Roland TR-808 drum machine and described the album as "Kanye's would-be Here, My Dear or Blood on the Tracks, a mournful song-suite that swings violently between self-pity and self-loathing".[64] In the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot called it West's "most radical yet" and said while West's fans may be disappointed, "this one is for him. It remains to be seen if he goes back to making records for everybody else. For now, this is one fascinatingly perverse detour."[68] PopMatters critic Dave Heaton was impressed by West's "song and album construction, and with the way he captures a particular feeling through unusual, evocative, carefully crafted music that’s both simple and complex, cold and warm, mechanical and human, melodic and harsh".[69] Writing for MSN Music, Robert Christgau found it "brilliant" with a unique "dark sound" and "engaging tunes", despite a second-half drop-off, and praised West's use of Auto-Tune, which he felt "both undercuts his self-importance and adds physical reality to tales of alienated fame that might otherwise be pure pity parties".[36]

In a less enthusiastic review, The Independent found West's "immersion in personal misery" uncomfortable and commented that the "stylistic tropes quickly become irritating".[63] AllMusic editor Andy Kellman stated "no matter its commendable fearlessness, the album is a listless, bleary trudge along West's permafrost".[33] Charles Aaron from Spin criticized the songs' musical structures, calling the album "a long processional that starts and restarts and never reaches the ceremony".[70] Slant Magazine's Wilson McBee panned West's singing,[71] while Jon Caramanica from The New York Times singled it out as the "weakness for which this album will ultimately be remembered, some solid songs notwithstanding."[13] Caramanica wrote that, "at best, it is a rough sketch for a great album, with ideas he would have typically rendered with complexity, here distilled to a few words, a few synthesizer notes, a lean drumbeat. At worst, it’s clumsy and underfed, a reminder that all of that ornamentation served a purpose".[13] Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis stated, "If West had interspersed the more mechanical tracks with some that were the exact opposite—say, simple piano interludes provided by his old collaborators John Legend or Jon Brion—he might have made a masterpiece. Instead, he's merely given us an extremely intriguing, sporadically gripping, undeniably fearless and altogether unexpected piece of his troubled soul."[72]


808s & Heartbreak was voted the tenth best album of 2008 in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of prominent American critics.[73] The album was also named one of the ten best albums of 2008 by a number of publications, including the Associated Press (number four),[73] The Hartford Courant (number seven), NOW (number four), The Observer (number eight), Vibe (no order) and Time (number six).[74][75][76] Pitchfork named 808s & Heartbreak the twenty-first best album of 2008.[77] Dan Leroy of LA Weekly cited it as one of the top ten hip hop albums of the year.[78] Jam! named it the top album of 2008.[79] Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis included the album on his list of the year's ten best albums and wrote, "With every listen, the poignancy of these personal tales of loss grows deeper, perfectly matched by the cold, lonely, robotic but nevertheless winning grooves that accompany them. Upon further reflection, it is a brave and daring 4-star effort that deserves to be heard by any fan of adventurous pop music."[80] Time Out New York featured the album on its list of the Best and Worst Albums of 2008. The magazine's writer Colin St. John cited 808s & Heartbreak as one of the worst of 2008, and editor Steve Smith named it third on his best-of list, while calling the album "the year's most misunderstood triumph."[81]

Despite its accolades, 808s & Heartbreak was largely overlooked as a contender for the 52nd Grammy Awards.[82] According to Vibe magazine editor-in-chief Jermaine Hall, West's controversial incident at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and the ensuing backlash against West "probably hurt him", but perceived West's stylistic change on the album as the primary reason for it not being nominated.[82] West received one solo nomination, Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Amazing", and five other nominations for his guest appearances and collaborational work.[83]

In 2009, Rolling Stone ranked it number 63 on its list of the 100 Best Album of the Decade,[84] then in 2014 they named it one of the 40 most groundbreaking albums of all time,[85] in which it was only one of two albums to be released in the 21st century. Q named it the decade's 81st best record. On similar lists, Slant Magazine and PopMatters ranked it 124th and 42nd, respectively.[73]

2009BET Hip Hop AwardsCD of the YearNominated[86]
Hungarian Music AwardsBest Foreign Dance or Pop AlbumNominated[87]
NAACP Image AwardsOutstanding AlbumNominated[88]
Soul Train Music AwardsAlbum of the YearNominated[89]
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Music: Album – MaleNominated[90]
MOBO AwardsBest AlbumNominated[91]
Swiss Music AwardsBest Album Urban InternationalNominated[92]
Urban Music Awards USABest AlbumWon[93]

Commercial performance

In its first week of sales, 808s & Heartbreak reached the number one spot on Billboard 200, with sales of 450,145 album-equivalent units.[94] The following week, the album descended three places to number four on the chart and experienced a 69% sales decline, selling 142,000 units.[95] In the last week of 2008, 808s & Heartbreak sold 165,100 copies, jumping six places from the eleventh spot to number five on the Billboard 200.[96] The album moved up again the following week, selling 70,900 units and landing at number three.[97] On January 27, 2009, 808s & Heartbreak was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), serving as West's fourth album to ship one million copies in the United States.[98] As of June 14, 2013, it has sold 1.7 million copies in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[99][100]

The album attained a position of number four on the Canadian Albums Chart.[101] On July 13, 2009, 808s & Heartbreak was certified platinum by Music Canada for selling 80,000 copies.[102] It peaked at number 11 on the UK Albums Chart and lasted for 29 weeks on the chart.[103] The album was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipments of 400,000 copies on April 14, 2017.[104] 808s & Heartbreak also reached number 11 on the Irish Albums Chart.[105] In 2008, the album was certified platinum by the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), indicating shipments of 15,000 copies.[106] On the ARIA Albums Chart, 808s & Heartbreak peaked at number 12, standing as West's second lowest charting album in Australia.[107] As of December 31, 2008, the album has been certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of 35,000 copies.[108]

Despite the debate and uncertainty surrounding the conception of 808s & Heartbreak, its preceding singles demonstrated outstanding chart performances. Upon its release, the lead single "Love Lockdown" debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a "Hot Shot Debut". It is the highest debut of West's career, the second highest debut on the Hot 100 that year and the tenth song of the millennium to debut in the top three.[109] Grossing over 1.3 million copies at the iTunes Store alone, the single was certified platinum by the RIAA by the end of the year.[110] On August 18, 2010, it was certified triple platinum by the RIAA, for shipments of three million units in the US.[98] The single was also met by positive reviews from music critics, eventually culminating with being crowned "Song of the Year" by Time.[111] The second single, "Heartless" performed similarly and became his second consecutive "Hot Shot Debut" by debuting at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[112] It was certified double platinum by the RIAA, having shipped two million units in the US.[98] Due in part to the momentum produced by the album's release, certain tracks were met by chart success despite not actually being released as singles.[101] The tenth track "See You in My Nightmares" became yet another "Hot Shot Debut," peaking at number 21 in the US and at number 22 in Canada while the fourth track "Amazing" charted at 81 on the Hot 100.[101][113] Following suit, "Welcome to Heartbreak" peaked at number 87 on the Pop 100.[101]

Public reaction

It wasn't really the traditional Kanye hip-hop album. He went out of the box, which some people loved, but for others, it took a while to grow on them. — Jermaine Hall, Vibe editor in chief[82]

Before its release, reaction to 808s & Heartbreak was mixed, ranging from anticipation to bewilderment and indifference to the album's concept. Upon the unveiling of the lead single "Love Lockdown" at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, music audiences were taken aback by the uncharacteristic production style and the presence of Auto-Tune.[114] The negative feedback intensified when West revealed that the entire album would be primarily sung with Auto-Tune rather than rapped and would focus on themes of love and heartache.[7][115]

Numerous hip hop fans and certain rappers mocked West for becoming "sappy" while others deemed the upcoming LP as a throwaway experimental album.[114] Comparisons were drawn to Electric Circus, an album recorded by West's labelmate and close friend Common.[116] MTV eventually interviewed Common to share his thoughts and views on the artistic direction of the album. Common expressed both his understanding and his support for West's intentions, stating "I love it. I'mma tell you, as an artist, you wanna be free. I'mma do what I feel. You can't just cater to the audience. You gotta say, 'Hey, y'all, this is where I'm at.' For him to do an album called 808s and Heartbreak, you know that's where he is at this moment. I heard some songs, and I think it's fresh. I think the people are ready for it."[117]

West received similar approval from Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, both of whom contributed to the album. During an interview, when asked what music today inspires him, Wayne stated "everybody's doing their thing, but they're not exciting. Everybody is doing the same thing. That's terrible. Do I love the music that's out right now? I love it with a passion. Does it motivate me? Not one bit. That's because 808s & Heartbreak isn't out yet."[118] Despite the approval from the rap superstars, as well as the record-breaking chart performances of the first two singles, hip hop audiences remained indifferent towards the album, predicting it would flop.[114] Responding to reviews, West stated that he didn't care about sales or getting good ratings, saying that it came from the heart and that's all that matters to him. When asked about the current state of hip hop, West compared it to a high school, stating that hip hop used to be all about being fearless and standing out, and that now it is about being afraid and fitting in.[119] Michael Jackson was an admirer of the album, with his daughter saying he played it for her "all the time".[120]

Legacy and influence

Drake was part of the wave of rappers whose music was shaped by the album.

Drake was part of the wave of rappers whose music was shaped by the album.

Although West designed it as a melancholic pop album, 808s & Heartbreak had a significant effect on hip hop music.[121] While his decision to sing about love, loneliness, and heartache for the entirety of the album was at first heavily criticized by music audiences and the album predicted to be a flop, its subsequent critical acclaim and commercial success encouraged other mainstream rappers to take greater creative risks with their music.[114][117] During the release of The Blueprint 3, New York rap mogul Jay-Z revealed that his next studio album would be an experimental effort, stating, "... it's not gonna be a #1 album. That's where I'm at right now. I wanna make the most experimental album I ever made."[122] Jay-Z elaborated that like West, he was unsatisfied with contemporary hip hop, was being inspired by indie-rockers like Grizzly Bear and asserted his belief that the indie rock movement would play an important role in the continued evolution of hip hop.[123]

808s was the first album of that kind, you know? It was the first, like, black new wave album. I didn't realize I was new wave until [Yeezus]. Thus my connection with Peter Saville, with Raf Simons, with high-end fashion, with minor chords. I hadn't heard new wave! But I am a black new wave artist. — Kanye West, 2013[124]

The album impacted hip hop stylistically and laid the groundwork for a new wave of hip hop artists who generally eschewed typical rap braggadocio for intimate subject matter and introspection,[125] including B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino,[126] Frank Ocean,[127] and Drake.[128][129] Jake Paine of HipHopDX dubbed the album as "our Chronic", noting West's effect on hip hop with 808s & Heartbreak as "a sound, no different than the way Dr. Dre's synthesizer challenged the boom-bap of the early '90s."[128] Fact described the record as an "art-pop masterpiece [which] broke the shackles of generations of one-upmanship [in hip hop]."[130] Rolling Stone journalist Matthew Trammell asserted that the record was ahead of its time and wrote in a 2012 article, "Now that popular music has finally caught up to it, 808s & Heartbreak has revealed itself to be Kanye’s most vulnerable work, and perhaps his most brilliant."[131]

According to Greg Kot, 808s & Heartbreak initiated the "wave of inward-looking sensitivity" and "emo"-inspired rappers during the late 2000s: "[It] presaged everything from the introspective hip-hop of Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009) to the wispy crooning, plush keyboards and light mechanical beats of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and British dub-step balladeer James Blake."[132] Consequence of Sound credited it with shaping subsequent developments in "indie R&B or electropop or whatever you want to call it": "808s' is flooded with R&B and it digitizes the raw emotion and isolated feelings that [James Blake and The Weeknd] have carved their brands out of today."[133] Craig D. Linsey from The Village Voice wrote that the album's "naked humanity ... practically set off the emo-rap/r&b boom that everyone from Drake to Frank Ocean to The Weeknd now traffic in."[134] Marcus Scott of GIANT said rappers such as B.o.B, Drake, and Kid Cudi followed West's album with similarly-minded works, citing West's introspective, emotional themes and synthpop/"Vangelis-inspired" music as influences.[135] In the opinion of Billboard senior editor Alex Gale, the album was "the equivalent of (Bob) Dylan going electric, and you still hear that all the time, in hip-hop and outside of hip-hop."[136] Drake's 2009 mixtape So Far Gone received comparisons from critics to 808s & Heartbreak.[137] Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times cited 808s & Heartbreak as "the template [...] for essentially the entirety of Drake's young career", and that wrote that he "shares West's love for mood and never-ending existential analysis".[138] In a 2009 interview, Drake cited West as "the most influential person" in shaping his own sound.[137] In 2014, Rolling Stone named 808s & Heartbreak one of the 40 most groundbreaking albums of all time.[139]

Track listing

Songwriting credits, production credits, and notes for tracks 1–11 adapted from the liner notes of 808s & Heartbreak.[11] Songwriting credits for track 12 adapted from BMI.[140]

"Say You Will"
"Welcome to Heartbreak"(featuring Kid Cudi)
  • West
  • Bhasker[a]
  • Plain Pat[a]
  • West
  • Ernest Wilson
  • Mescudi
  • Malik Jones
  • West
  • No I.D.[a]
"Amazing"(featuring Young Jeezy)
  • West
  • Jones
  • Mills
  • Bhasker
  • Jenkins
  • West
  • Bhasker[a]
"Love Lockdown"
  • West
  • Bhasker
  • Jenny-Bea Englishman
  • Jones
  • LaNeah Menzies
  • West
  • Bhasker[a]
"Paranoid"(featuring Mr Hudson)
  • West
  • Reynolds
  • Mescudi
  • Mills
  • Bhasker
  • West
  • Bhasker[a]
  • Pat[a]
  • West
  • Englishman
  • Jones
  • Mills
  • Mescudi
  • Antony Williams
  • Bhasker
  • Faheem Najm
  • Jenkins
  • Patrick Doyle
"Street Lights"
  • West
  • Englishman
  • Williams
  • Benjamin McIldowie
  • West
  • Mr Hudson[a]
"Bad News"
  • West
  • George Bass
"See You in My Nightmares"(featuring Lil Wayne)
  • West
  • Wilson
  • Bhasker
  • Dwayne Carter
  • West
  • No I.D.[a]
"Coldest Winter"
  • West
  • Wilson
  • Roland Orzabal
  • West
  • No I.D.[a]
  • Bhasker[a]
"Pinocchio Story (Freestyle Live from Singapore)"(hidden track)West6:01
Total length:51:58


  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer

  • "Welcome to Heartbreak" contains background vocals by Jeff Bhasker

  • "Amazing" contains background vocals by Mr Hudson and Tony Williams

  • "Paranoid" contains background vocals by Kid Cudi

  • "RoboCop" contains background vocals by Tony Williams and Jeff Bhasker

  • "Street Lights" contains background vocals by Esthero and Tony Williams

Sample credits

  • "RoboCop" embodies portions of "Kissing in the Rain", written by Patrick Doyle.

  • "Bad News" contains a sample of the recording "See Line Woman" as performed by Nina Simone and written by Bass.

  • "Coldest Winter" embodies an interpolation of "Memories Fade", written by Roland Orzabal.



  • Lula Almeida – drums/percussions (track 5)

  • Davis Barnett – viola (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Jeff Bhasker – keyboards (all tracks), background vocals (tracks 2, 7)

  • James J. Cooper, III – cello (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Rodney Dassis – drums/percussions (track 5)

  • Miles Davis – bass (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Esthero – background vocals (track 8)

  • Larry Gold – string arrangement and conducting (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Mr Hudson – featured artist (track 6), background vocals (tracks 1, 4)

  • The Kadockadee Kwire featuring Glenn Jordan, Phillip Ingram, Jim Gilstrap, Romeo Johnson, Kevin Dorsey and Will Wheaton – vocals (track 1)

  • Kid Cudi – featured artist (track 2), background vocals (track 6)

  • Olga Konopelsky – violin (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Emma Kummrow – violin (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Alexandra Leem – viola (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Ken Lewis – piano (tracks 2, 3), orchestra in chorus (track 7)

  • Lil Wayne – featured artist (track 10)

  • Jennie Lorenzo – cello (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Luigi Mazzochi – violin (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Charles Parker – violin (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Igor Szwec – violin (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Gregory Teperman – violin (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Kanye West – lead artist

  • Tony Williams – background vocals (tracks 1, 4, 7, 8)

  • Young Jeezy – featured artist (track 4)

  • Gibi Zé Bruno – drums/percussions (track 5)


  • Jeff Bhasker – co-production (tracks 2, 4-6, 10)

  • Chad Carlisle – recording assistance (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • Jeff Chestek – string engineering (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Andrew Dawson – recording (all tracks), mixing (track 5)

  • Isha Erskine – recording assistance (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • Rick Friedrich – string engineering assistance (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Gaylord Homomalia – recording assistance (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • Mr Hudson – co-production (track 8)

  • Anthony Kilhoffer – recording (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • Brent Kolatalo – orchestra in chorus engineering (track 7)

  • Ken Lewis – orchestra in chorus engineering (track 7)

  • Erik Madrid – mix assistance (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • Vlado Meller – mastering

  • Montez Roberts – string engineering assistance (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Manny Marroquin – mixing (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • Christian Mochizuki – recording assistance (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • No I.D. – co-production (tracks 3, 10, 11)

  • Plain Pat – co-production (tracks 2, 6)

  • Christian Plata – mix assistance (tracks 1-4, 6-11)

  • John Stahl – string engineering assistance (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

  • Kanye West – production (all tracks)



RegionCertificationCertified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[108]Gold35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[102]Platinum80,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[106]Platinum15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[104]Platinum300,000^
United States (RIAA)[154]Platinum1,700,000[100]
sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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