Wherever T-Pain is, he needs to be dragged out in front of the public and put into the stockade for crimes committed against music. He has directly contributed to this increasingly distressing vocorder lunacy that has infiltrated the best minds in hip hop and turned them into mush. If mind control through recording technology sounds like the plot of a mad scientist, that’s because it is. T-Pain is not an R&B singer at all, but rather a villain dedicated to ridding the earth of the one thing he hates most: listenable music identifiably sung by someone that is not a robot.
808s & Heartbreak presents distressing evidence that T-Pain has gone farther than we thought: He’s turned Kanye West from a soul-sample-mixing, Daft Punk-collaborating maestro of popular music into a merchant of the worst major-label garbage dumped on the public since, well… whatever T-Pain last came out with.
To call this album turgid is to do a disservice to the word turgid. We understand that you are depressed, Kanye, but please spare us comparing your ex-girlfriend to Kathy Bates in “Misery” while you sample a truly desolate Tears for Fears track. What, did the ghost of Elliott Smith possess you and force you to make this horrible album?
The biggest problem with 808s & Heartbreak is that Kanye seems genuinely lost with this toolkit. When he reaches his swaggering best — see “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” or “Jesus Walks” — he is something to behold, with his voice and multi-layered soul samples combining to create something close to what perfect hip hop sounds like, although perhaps minus some lyrical talent.
Word of advice for Kanye: Next time you want to recreate Joy Division at its most nihilistic, stop, take a deep breath and walk away from Pro Tools before you make another mistake on par with this one.
To some extent, I sympathize with Kanye — what he’s trying to do with this album is really, really hard. But for God’s sake, after you warn us all about gold diggers, storm the stage angrily when you don’t win a minor award and then perform onstage at the Grammy Awards with Daft Punk, do not expect us to throw you a pity party because a “spoiled little LA girl” trampled all over your heart. Also, what does it say about you that you let your ex inspire you to make what will hopefully be the most embarrassing album of your career?
The highlights of the album — if you can call them that — are probably “Heartless” and “RoboCop,” but you should really just pretend that this album never came out, a la “Rocky V.” I suggest playing “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” (which is still and will always be the best Kanye song, although he doesn’t rap on it) 12 times in a row and call it a night.