From the years of 2008 to 2010, Kanye West released two seemingly opposite albums, “808’s & Heartbreak” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Both projects use relationships as the thesis, but deal with them completely differently sonically and structurally. Upon release, 808’s was not commercially acclaimed by his fans. The album was a complete departure from his previous school-themed albums and it had seemed he went solely pop, only to come back as a revitalized force to be reckoned with in the rap game. The question here is why are these albums in succession with each other? Why the drastic change and why does the “lesser” of the two personal circumstances warrant a perceived superior album?
“808’s” was birthed from West losing not only two of the most important people in his life, but two of the most important women. His mother, Donda West, passed, and he also parted with his then-fiance Alexis Phifer. The entirety of the album’s lyrical content discusses the ended relationship past and present. In total opposition to his former project, the production was stripped down and bare. It was robotic, techno and had a feeling of emptiness. The album played like the five stages of depression, and was straight forward as far as rap lyrics go. There was no need for deciphering, analyzation or cracking open metaphors. There was no secret that the lyrics were talking about. Even in the title itself, it tells you what you’re going to get: A bunch of 808 production and heartbreaking lyrics. This project was looked at as West’s leaving of hip hop. It wasn’t lush, soulful and intricate like it’s predecessors.
“MBDTF” was what people was expecting with the last project but so, so much more. Even with the mouthful of a title, you could tell that you were going to get something special. The scope was wider, the production teetered on the edge of being over-produced but never crossed it, and he was rapping like he had something to prove again. People wrote West off. It seemed he fell off his game and in that moment he was in a space of being the underdog. But, in typical Kanye fashion, he came back in the most grandiose way possible: Always dawning tailored suits, low-fade haircuts and releasing probably the most inspiring single “Power.” This was the first time where his muse was apparent and in a figure that we could readily put a face too. Model, actress and businesswoman Amber Rose was personification of this project. A two-year relationship festered this record, which can now arguably be called a masterpiece and a classic.
The answer to this strange coincidence speaks about something completely personal to the kind of person that West is and how people in general deal with certain situations, especially in relationships. With his mother and ex-fiance leaving his life, it was normal that he turn monotonous. As a child, it isn’t typical to think about the morality of your parents, whom you already think are superheros, and still not any more typical when you’re older. Also, to loose someone that you planned to spend your whole life with in the same time frame naturally leads to entire pieces of yourself lost, in turn making life seem more robotic.
Now, when depression is beaten, it can make a person feel triumphant and invincible, hence the opposite shift in attitude. Concerning the relationship with Amber Rose, I can imagine that being with a former stripper would be quite an interesting dynamic. An amazing chance for wild stories to be turned into songs. With him coming out of that dark place, he could be more equipped and open to better describe his feelings, hence why the album is so broad.
The two albums are both great. Both totally different from each other but they serve their distinictive purposes in the best way possible, showing the highest peaks and the lowest valleys of a person for your listening pleasure.