I listened to 808 and Heartbreaks last week for about two days straight.
It is an album that needs to be played loudly, in your trunk, on your
headphones or in the living groom.
I came to it through the back door as I wasn’t really tripping off of it
until I saw folks at The Smoking Section speak and I read the comments
section. I figured if that many people were hating on it, then I should give
it a listen.
Besides, I typically rock for the underdog.
I also knew that given the loss that he experienced in the last year
and the fact that he is a Gemini, he was going to go all out on the album.
Word to Tupac.
The more I listened to the album, the more I realized that this
cat was in a lot of pain, and trying to articulate it.
To say that he “sounds like” T-Pain misses the point by looking
at just the sound, but ignoring the content. T- Pain ain’t never
said anything that made me think about nothing.
Whereas, 808’s and Heartbreak, helped me with being in
reflection mode last week.
Besides, listening to the beat and not the lyrics has been a troubling
issue in hip hop since The Chronic.
Break up albums allow an artist to lay it on the line. 808’s is no different.
In fact, Marvin Gaye’s Here my Dear, Erykah’s Mamas Gun are some
other examples that come to mind.
Other than the loss of someone, when are you really vulnerable?
Listening to the album and hearing him describe those
post break up slug penetrate moments, I came to realize
that he was being both vulnerable and in pain and in our culture that
is a no no for men, and antithetical to Black manhood. That is if
if you believed what you saw in hip hop.
It was then that I realized that the only acceptable emotion
for Black men to publicly express and still retain their
masculinity is rage.
Kill a hundred fools? Cool.
Murder, stab, rape? Fine.
Sad over losing our ex? Blasphemy.
In many ways, 808’s and heartbreak is a blues album.
That classic since my baby left me blues music.
In fact, the beef over this Kanye album underscores
the stark differences between the Blues and hip hop.
With the blues, Black men could be complex, emotional
With hip hop, at least with regard to the dominant narrative,
they can only be self destructive machines.
I wonder what BB King thinks?