Money Mike and I both written reviews on the new Kanye album, 808s & Heartbreak (here and here) and we had two different takes. Don’t worry, we’re almost done discussing the album, but I had to see what it was exactly that he saw that I didn’t.

GG: We’ve both listened to Kanye West’s new album 808s & Heartbreak very intently. We’ve both reviewed it. You think it’s an album of the year candidate, while I think it’s daring, but uneven. After listening to it a few more times, do you still think it’s an album of the year candidate? And also, how does it rank with his other three albums, even if it’s a completely different style?

MM: I definitely still think it’s an album of the year candidate…you discover more little intricacies the more you listen to it.

It’s hard to compare it to the rest of his work if only because it sounds so atypical of a Kanye West album. I’m not really sure what to say there. It’s certainly the most interesting listen of his career.

GG: Other than the obvious, which is the fact that it’s an album in which he only sings, what is it that makes it the most interesting album of his career?

MM: It’s an unprecedented move for a hip-hop artist. He more or less abandoned rapping on this album in favor of almost making an indie-rock record. It’s a really ballsy move, and he does it at the great risk of alienating a large portion of his fan base.

GG: I get that part. But is it only interesting because of that? Does it then become a gimmick for hip hop artists to try and be so far out of pocket that it’s the new trendy? Or is there something about this album that can’t be done by most hip hop artists? And what is that?

MM: I don’t think most other artists will do that because they’re so afraid of losing their audience or their tough image. Kanye already has the audience that will listen to this album, whereas most rappers don’t. This is Kanye taking The Love Below to the next level. The question is going to be whether he’ll be able to balance the street credibility with his artistic credibility the way Andre 3000 has.

GG: I am going to continue to challenge your description of the album as “interesting” because anything can be interesting. What makes Kanye’s “interesting” good?

MM: Well, it’s not good because it’s interesting. I think the fact that it’s so different makes it a lot more interesting to listen to. It would be good even if it wasn’t Kanye West. I love the mood of the album, even if the lyricism isn’t where it needs to be, exactly.

GG: That’s what I was looking for. Let’s go back to something you talked about earlier. You mentioned that this album could alienate his fanbase. If that’s the case, why go this route? Couldn’t he have been able to say the same things in the way we expect him to sound?

MM: Well, I think part of it is definitely his ego. I think he wants to be seen as someone who can do things that would be dangerous for any other artist and still manages to keep his fan base, although whether he can actually do that remains to be seen.

GG: How do you think hip hop America reacts to this? A lot of them see him as too different and too out there already.

MM: I don’t think it’ll do a lot of damage. I just think that the hardcore hip-hop heads are gonna go “well, that’s Kanye” and just hope that the next album has more of a hip-hop flavor.

GG: On the flip side, does this open him up to a new fan base that hasn’t listened to Kanye before?

MM: Honestly, I don’t think so. Kanye already had this audience. You can’t sell as many records as Kanye these days without having that mass appeal, and he’s always had that indie cred. Those are the people that are buying 808s and ultimately that might prove to be a smart move, seeing how fickle rap fans usually are.

GG: I want to touch on something that you spoke on earlier, and then add my own part to that. I enjoyed most of the same parts of the album as you did, especially the mood. But what about the singing? Doesn’t the singing have to touch you as well? I never expected him to sing well, but in order for me to call the album a classic, it has to be the total package. It’s not like he has a terrible voice, but he doesn’t have a singing voice either. And also, lyrically, I thought he could’ve really opened some eyes, but he chose to go the cutesy route way too often. Did those things bother you as much as they did me?

MM: Not really. I guess I give him a certain amount of leeway based on the fact that he’s one of my favorite artists, but I was seriously expecting the Auto-Tune to bug me and it didn’t. He’s not a great singer, but you don’t need to be a great vocalist to bring across emotion, and I think he did a really great job at setting up the mood, both vocally and instrumentally. If this album has one Achilles heel, it’s the lyrics, which are pretty simple. But again, I kind of like the plainspoken aspect of it. He was going for the heart as opposed to trying to be abstract.

GG: Talking about “going for the heart”, the material sums up what personally had to have been a terrible year for him. He lost his mother in a plastic surgery tragedy and then his engagement to Alexis Phifer ended as well. I may be a terrible person for saying this, but some part of me thinks that by changing up his entire style based on his feelings and emotions from those two events, it’s just another way of focusing on himself and giving the fans an alternate layer to show off his “superstar”.

MM: I think that could be part of it. I don’t know if he’s that egotistical-I think a lot of his bluster is an act. However, I do think that he saw both an alternate way to express himself and a way to make news at the same time by going all the way left. I think he was trying to show another side of himself without cheapening the pain of the losses he experienced.

GG: That’s probably a better way to say it.

You compared this album to Andre 3000’s The Love Below. Even though it was very much expected for Andre 3000 to do something wacky, mainstream music fans embraced him. I don’t think Kanye has necessarily been embraced as much. Why do you think that is? Auto-Tune?

MM: Nah, cause everyone and their mom is using Auto-Tune and having hits with it. I just don’t think Kanye has a record as catchy as Hey Ya! on his album. Simple as that. Love Lockdown isn’t that kind of singalong, cross-genre, cross-generation kind of song, and nothing on the album is, really.

GG: Where does Kanye go from here? If he drops another record next year, what do you think it sounds like?

MM: Depends on how this album does. If it does well, he probably goes left again. If not, then it’s back to original Kanye for the comeback album. LOL.

GG: Alright Money Mike, that’s all I got for you. Next time, we should probably talk a little bit about the year in music. I know you’ll have a list of your top 30 albums. We should definitely talk about in a month or so.

Photo of Kanye West by Phil Romans and shared via creative commons