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I have no idea what there is to say at this point. I’m waiting until the album drops to give my two cents.

But if you’re curious:

Kanye West feat. Lil’ Wayne – “Tell Everybody That You Know”

Kanye West feat. Young Jeezy – “Amazing”

Kanye West Def Jam Conference Call

I’m warning you, this may not be what you were hoping for.

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(Post-it notes for Kanye’s studio):

Kanye West – “Love Lockdown (Remastered)”: All those people who bought this on iTunes are huge suckers. Remember like two months ago when this supposedly came out? And then a new version came out that was better? And then this version came out? Well, if rushing out an album in two weeks struck anyone as a bad idea, this is proof that sometimes it pays to tweak things until they are better. This song still isn’t going to win any awards (well, I mean, it probably is, but that’s not the point), but ramping up those tribal drums and the filling out the bassline and whatever else is different, was a really good call. Hey, there’s still a lot of post-election goodwill, maybe nobody will be upset if it takes a couple more weeks to fine-tune this album.

Kanye West – “Heartless (Remastered)”: I’m not exactly sure how this song was changed other than moving the bass on the equalizer up a little bit, but I don’t really have an ear for these things. I kind of liked the spareness on the original version, but this one was altered so slightly that it won’t make a huge difference. The video is really cool, even if animated Kanye is still a terrible actor. “Any Way” would have been a better single pick than this one, though.

Jay-Z – “History”: Oops, you mixed this wrong. This is an awesome beat, but seriously, despite the problem I mentioned on the “Heartless” note, within two seconds of this song starting I could tell the bass needed to be brought up and the vocals on the sample sounded tinny and high-pitched. I think I can fix this with the EQ dials on my car stereo, so it should be possible on ProTools too. It would be a shame to put this version on the album because this is an amazing song. In addition to the implications that this song has by being leaked the day after Election Day (the original leak version sounded a lot fuller, by the way – bring that back, that’s all), it sees Jay confronting his role as the preeminent figure in hip hop. There is obvious desire to read into the lyrics about making history and achieving victory as a commentary on Obama, but this is also about Jay’s career, and it’s deep stuff. With its personification (Victory, Defeat, Success, History, etc.) there is little subtlety, but it still is dipping into the literary concerns of poets like Spenser and Shakespeare. In his Amoretti Spenser claims “For I myself shall like to this decay/And eek my name be wiped out likewise./Not so, (quod I) let baser things devise/To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:” hoping that his poem will immortalize his love. This is not the kind of thing that it’s cool to rap about. The fact that I’m quoting a 16th century poet proves that. But consider Jay’s lyrics:

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Well, this is clearly not mastered and it seems like it hasn’t even been properly mixed yet. But, uh, I don’t know what else to say. It’s pretty much like all the other songs, although this is kind of an upbeat/dance song that could have been on the Sega Genesis Sonic soundtrack. I’m not sure how Kanye is getting away with releasing this album, but apparently he’s on to something if people like it so much.

Actually, on second listen, it’s kind of a cool track. Reminds me a little of early MGMT. It’s so hard for me to listen to Kanye songs with poor production.

Kanye West — Anyway (feat. Kid Cudi) (via NahRight)

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When I tell Chinese people that Kanye West is one of my favorite musicians, they consistently have no idea whom I’m talking about. Considering that one of my preconceived notions about most conversations I have is that people know and ostensibly love Kanye, and therefore he is a safe subject to discuss (which I do, often), it’s always a blow to have this common ground taken away from me. Nonetheless, in addition to the swarms of ex-pats who rolled up to the biggest musical event in Beijing hip hop history last night (including a bunch of mysterious high-school age Americans – are there really that many embassy kids?), there were enough Chinese people to pack the Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium, which was conveniently small enough that my nosebleed seats were a lot better than my nosebleed seats from when I saw Kanye at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

In fact, the whole affair was decidedly Chinese. To get into the stadium we had to walk down an aisle lined on either side by soldiers, and the show itself had a bunch of weird regulations. By all appearances, they didn’t let the extremely limited number of people on the floor stand or dance at all until the last two songs, which both must have made those seats a ripoff and kind of killed the energy for everybody else. The most glaring issue, though, was that the sound was absurdly low. I could barely hear Kanye on many of the songs, and it often took me 20 or 30 seconds to even figure out what he was performing because the only audible part was the bass drums. Presumably there was some kind of government presence stepping in and making sure that it wasn’t too loud, since Glow In The Dark was one of the best-mixed concerts I’ve ever seen.

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That’s the cover. At least according to Amazon and a bunch of blogs. I may not totally agree with the musical direction that Kanye’s taking, but I like the minimalist aesthetic of his album covers (I’m including the Love Lockdown and Heartless covers here) quite a bit. I still love the bears, but since this album looks basically like a one-off from the overall Kanye suite, it makes sense to deviate from that look.

Enough on album covers, though. There are some new tracks out there: the full quality version of “Coldest Winter” and a new one called “Robocop.”

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We’ve now heard three tracks from 808s and Heartbreak, and they share a distinct style, so we can guess that the rest of the album will sound similar. I didn’t want to judge the tracks too quickly, because I had no reference point to compare the tracks to. But my kneejerk reaction was negative, and justifiably so–Kanye is unarguably out of his element on all of these tracks.

Kanye is not a talented singer, and the unbelievably sparse backing tracks contrast sharply with his production throughout his rap career. In the past, Kanye has rarely been content to leave his sample-based beats unadorned with additional instrumentation, whether a single synthesizer or an ensemble of horn players, featured rappers, a singer and two professional keyboard players.

Even the production is amateurish at best. Kanye’s goofy, cartoonish synthesizers on all of these tracks, particularly “Heartless” (I’m pretty convinced that the synth in the verses is the default flute tone on a $100 Casio keyboard somewhere), is particularly surprising in contrast to his consistently adept use of synthesizers in the past.

FADER, in their review of the listening party for 808s and Heartbreak, similarly struggled for a point of reference, and came up with The Eraser, Thom Yorke’s solo album.  The comparison is tempting because (a) both albums feature emotional, gloomy singing over electronic tracks and (b) both musicians are considered pretty cool in music circles, despite (or in addition to) their tremendous mainstream success. But the comparison falls flat because (a) Thom Yorke can sing, (b) The Eraser is well-produced in the conventional sense, and (c) Thom Yorke draws upon alternative and indie rock influences, whereas Kanye is clearly drawing upon R&B, hip hop, and even the blues.

Of course, the whole reason I wrote this is because I finally came up with a good comparison for 808s and Heartbreak. It’s Cody Chesnutt (the guy at the top of this post).

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So I lied about that Paper Trail review. I guess Greg wins. If you’re wondering, it’s a 7.2. Some absolutely killer singles, but enough crappy tracks and too much of the same sound that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.

More importantly, I’m leaving on vacation for a week in about half an hour, so I won’t be updating for a while. You’ll just have to rely on those lazy motherfuckers Greg and Gabe.

Anyway, new song from our boy. It’s a radio rip, so terrible sound quality, but we put up with this so we can bombard you with our opinions on everything Kanye does. So if you want to grab it, you can probably look at that link. And I’ll let someone else take a shot at breaking this one down, but I will say that it’s probably my favorite of the three we’ve heard so far.

Who says we never do anything for you? I’m out.

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How could you be so heartless? You won’t even rap?

Kanye just dropped the unmastered version of “Heartless” on his blog. It has pictures of naked women, too, if that’s your thing.

I’ll come out and say it, I’m a pretty big fan of the hook on this. This is a way catchier song than “Love Lockdown,” and it probably deserves to chart. I wish Kanye would rap, though. It would also be nice if the drums hit a little bit harder. This song kind of just flounders in terms of excitement. I’m really not feeling this whole R&B kick, and I love R&B. I could see a song like this fitting into an album really well, though, so I won’t despair yet. But, uh, it looks like we’re looking at an album of this, so I’d start getting your heartbreak jokes ready.

I say it looks like we’re looking at a full album of it because of this FADER listening party review that compares it to Thom Yorke solo work. Which is actually something I like. Who the fuck knows. Although it looks like this is basically a one-off breakup record that was made with the philosophy that “Auto-Tune is fun.” I guess I can’t really argue with that, even though it doesn’t necessarily say much about the music. Also, the listening party is the context for all the naked women linked to above, if you’re wondering.

P.S. The album’s only guests are Jeezy and Wayne. None of that Talib or Mos Def bullshit this time around.

Kanye West – “Heartless Main Pass”

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Preview of Kanye’s second single off of 808’s and Heartbreak, now officially turned in and due out November 25, “Heartless:”

[kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/48376/232809&embedId=49283041]

This is from a guest appearance at some MySpace thing where he came on during T.I.’s set to do his verse from “Swagger Like Us,” which T.I. erroneously calls one of the greatest records ever at the end of this video. My thoughts on “Heartless,” although I can’t really hear anything, are that it actually sounds pretty good. I mean, I actually like AutoTune sometimes, and the hook here seems like a pretty appropriate use of it. The good news is also that Kanye is rapping (I think, like I said, I can’t hear). That’s about all I can say based on this video.

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So, we now have photographic proof (according to ‘Ye) that his new album is done and will be out in November. Call me a skeptic, but I have the feeling that when 808s and Heartbreak drops there’s going to be a lot of heartbreak in a lot of quarters. Specifically the ones that write for this blog. Not that you’ll ever catch me saying that Kanye is going to make a shitty album. But I’ll just point you to the first single. Via Kanye, here’s the proof the album’s done:

But, in case you didn’t think the world of Kanye was batshit crazy enough, you clearly haven’t heard that he and Rhymefest are working with the people who did Crank Yankers to make a TV series called Alligator Boots. And today we got the first glimpse of what it’s going to look like:

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