15 Songs Influenced By Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’
Can you imagine modern rap music without Kanye West's 808s And Heartbreak? It's difficult at this point. Though many artists have blurred the lines between hip-hop and other genres—upon its release 808s was compared to everything from Andre 3000's The Love Below to Common's Electric Circus—few records have had such an immediate, noticeable effect. With its stark compositions, Auto-Tune-assisted vocals and intensely personal subject matter, 808s ushered in a new era of heightened emotionality for rap.
In celebration of the album's recent 5 year anniversary this past weekend, we've gone ahead and selected 15 songs that bear the mark of Kanye's lonely robot musings and his experimental spirit. From the melancholy R&B of Frank Ocean to the reflective confessionals of Drake, the legacy of 808s is still growing. Welcome to heartbreak.
"Find Your Love" Drake
Kanye West and 808s producer Jeff Bhasker teamed up with Drake for this haunted, lovelorn track off Drake's debut full-length, Thank Me Later. While Drake had undoubtably developed his own singing style by this point, the song's mix of robotic drums and atmospheric pianos are straight out of the 808's playbook, which should hardly be surprising: Drizzy rapped over "Say You Will" on his So Far Gone mixtape.
"Swim Good" Frank Ocean
"Got some pretty good beats on this 808s CD," sang Ocean on one of the most beguiling tracks off his career-invigorating Nostalgia Ultra mixtape. While Ocean's work ultimately has a lush musical sophistication that goes beyond the stark minimalism of West's album, there's no denying that the experimentation of 808s helped set the stage for Ocean's brand of tuneful but emotionally damaged R&B.
"Pursuit Of Happiness" Kid Cudi
Both Kanye West and Kid Cudi feed off each other for inspiration and Cudi was a major force in shaping the sound and aesthetic of 808s, particularly on "Welcome To Heartbreak" which he contributed vocals to. But its unlikely that his debut full-length Man on the Moon: The End of Day, released under Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music imprint, would have been so singularly numb if it wasn't for West's groundbreaking work.
"Ghost In The Machine" B.o.B
The boundary-breaking ethos of 808s is said to have opened a wider lane for rap artists looking to make genre-mixing albums. B.o.B was obviously looking to mix things up on his full-length debut and while much of the album goes for a bubblegum-pop approach, tracks like "Ghost In The Machine" find him getting emotional over a synth, guitar and piano-filled instrumental that's probably a little too sweeping for Ye but still powerful.
"What You Need" The Weeknd
The Weeknd added an element of danger to Kanye's stark confessionals, turning the woozy atmosphere of 808s into a paranoia-filled late-night horror show.
"D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)" Jay Z
"My raps don't have melodies/This should make niggas wanna go and commit felonies." While "D.O.A.'s" reactionary anti-Auto-Tune stance doesn't bear the sonic influence of 808's, it's hard to imagine the song existing if Kanye hadn't gone so hard with the Auto-Tune. Though Kanye isn't credited as a producer on the track, he played a role in shaping its harsh philosophy.
"Marvins Room" Drake
On his second album, Drake further established his own voice, but on tracks like "Marvins Room" he still showed the influence of Kanye's self-conscious mood pieces.
"Heartbeat" Childish Gambino
Donald Glover has never been shy about his enthusiasm for Kanye West and this club-ready track finds him at his most 808s-esque.
"Woods" Bon Iver
This chilling track off Wisconsin indie rock artist Bon Iver's Blood Bank EP was technically recorded before the release of 808s, but it would eventually go on to become an essential bit of Kanye lore when West sampled the track on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's powerful "Lost In the World."
"Truth Gonna Hurt You" Future
Jay Z was obviously wrong about Auto-Tune. On Pluto and his stellar mixtapes, Future showed that the sound of Auto-Tune had even more emotional range than anyone could have guessed.
"Shit On You" Travi$ Scott
Given his recent work with West, it's hardly surprising that Scott would have a few songs in his catalog that could sit comfortably on 808s. Like Kanye's best work, "Shit On You" is both beautiful and haunting in its raw ugliness.
"Shining Down" Lupe Fiasco
Kanye and Lupe have always had a compelling relationship. This Matthew Santos collaboration is hardly the most 808s-like song on this list, but its sneaky rhythms, chiming guitars and Auto-Tuned vocals bring to mind Kanye at his more baroque.
"Citgo" Chief Keef
Though Chicago' drill scene is probably more indebted to the harsh rumbles of Atlanta rap music than Kanye's art-school experiments, the scene's interest in Auto-Tune feels like a possible Kanye influence. "Citgo" is a puzzling song, just as possibly alienating as Kanye's tracks were upon their initial release.
"She Knows" J. Cole
J. Cole is obviously a student of Kanye and on this piano-filled track, he conjures some of that old 808s magic, crafting a revealing narrative of lust, love and betrayal.
"Life Round Here" James Blake Featuring Chance The Rapper
The melding of English singer-songwriter James Blake with Chicago boy-wonder Chance The Rapper feels like an inherently 808s-like act. It's an outside-the-box collaboration that doesn't necessarily sound like it should work on paper, but ends up being oddly haunting when executed.
"Bang Bros" Lil Durk
Where does Auto-Tune go from here? Like his fellow Chicago rapper Chief Keef, Lil Durk has shown a keen interest in testing the limits of Auto-Tune, pushing the digital-gurgles of the technology to its breaking point.