Kanye’s Decade Defining Sound


The current rap scene is far different than it was even 10 years ago. Rappers like the very flamboyant and energetic, Tyler the Creator represent this shift in music. In the early 2010’s Tyler delivered lyrics that are racist, homophobic, and violence-inciting. His lyrics were so disturbing he was even banned from performing and advertising his music in the UK. In 2020 he won the Grammy for rap album of the year with Igor, an album about love and heartbreak. While his lyrics are still somewhat disturbing with him speaking about killing people affecting his relationship, he also raps about being in love with a white man. Why was Tyler able to change his subject matter so drastically? Well, the answer is simple, Kanye’s 808s and Heartbreaks.
“808s and Heartbreaks” is Kanye West’s 2008 album that rocked the hip hop industry. The album released to massive success and is now hailed as one of the most influential pieces of music ever released. Before 2008 rap was dark and only listened to by hard criminals and gangsters. Kanye’s eerie and different sounds on this album opened doors for a new wave of music and listeners. Many people, now called legends, sight “808s” as their first love in music. What made this album so special? The lyrics come from a deeper place in Kanye’s heart, but that’s not the only reason why it is so influential. It all boils down to a production kit that Kanye found. The 808s machine was a drum machine popular in pop music during the 80s that he found before starting the album. The bass on this machine was a lot heavier and the synths were from another world. 808s are now used on almost every song-even outside of rap music.
Fast forward to 2016 and artists such as XXXTENTACION and Lil Peep are taking over music with lyrics about heartbreak and depression. A full 180° from the lyrics presented just 10 years earlier. Both of these artists said they would never be able to make their music on the platform they have if it weren’t for Kanye. Kanye made it acceptable to talk about real feelings in rap music. His album was very well received with radio hits like ‘Heartless’ coming of it. No longer did rappers need to appear hard and intimidating, in fact, rappers that still make music like that tend to be called corny or cheesy. All of this was created by the brilliant mind of Kanye West. I couldn’t thank him enough for being so bold to release that album. He has had an immeasurable amount of influence on music.