Kanye West
808s & Heartbreak
10 Year Anniversary

Words By Ellice Ellis
Design By Albert Guillermo
& Palette Agency

Release Date: November 24, 2008
Label: Roc-A-Fella Records

After the release of his 2007 album Graduation, Kanye West’s world was flipped on its head. One month shy of the release of his third studio album, Kanye’s mother, Donda West, died due to complications from cosmetic surgery. Months later, Kanye and his fiance, Alexis Phifer, broke off their engagement, sending him into a world of further heartbreak. His fourth album would no longer be called Good Ass Job and would embody the melancholy haze the rapper was experiencing. Instead, he titled fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak.

In the midst of this, Kanye was coming off a string of career highs. His overwhelmingly optimistic singles "Stronger" and "Good Life" topped the charts. He destroyed 50 Cent in a same-release-day feud and had sold almost one million copies of Graduation in America its first week of release. Kanye had proved his backpack raps, skits, and soul beats could sell in a time where hip-hop was more focused on street cred and the styles of rappers like Eminem, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and Rick Ross.


Hot 100 Songs of the Year

1. Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low”
2. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love In This Club”
3. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love”
4. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body”
5. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop”
6. Rihanna, “Take A Bow”
7. Coldplay, “Viva la Vida”
8. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl”
9. Rihanna, “Disturbia”
10. T.I., “Whatever You Like”
11. Pink, “So What”
12. T.I. feat. Rihanna, “Live Your Life”
13. Britney Spears, “Womanizer”
14. Beyonce, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”

Other Major Hip-Hop Albums
Released In 2008

Rick Ross, Trilla
Snoop Dogg, Ego Trippin'
Flo Rida, Mail on Sunday
Rocko, Self-Made
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
N.E.R.D, Seeing Sounds
NAS, untitled
Jeezy, The Recession
T.I, Paper Trail
Q-Tip, The Renaissance
Common, Universal Mind Control
Soulja Boy, iSouljaBoyTellem


808s & Heartbreak turned a new leaf. Mixed with his feelings of grief, his likings to auto-tune, and the Roland TR-808 drum machine, the album was crafted in three weeks. In fact, he told The Guardian back in 2008 that he called the 808s effect he used on the album "heartbreak.” “It sounds distorted and electronic, and just the sound of it represents where I'm at,” Kanye said.

Months before the album’s release, fans unknowingly got a taste of 808s on Young Jeezy's single “Put On.” “I lost the only girl in the world that knows me best,” Kanye rapped with his voice coated and distorted with auto-tune.

In late September 2008, Kanye announced that the album, which was birthed out of Jay-Z’s Blueprint III studio sessions, would drop sooner than the expected December 16 date. On his blog KanyeUniverseCity.com “I changed my album to November something, 'cause I finished the album and I felt like it.”


Kanye was omnipresent in 2008. His feature on Estelle’s “American Boy,” proved to be an international success. He brought his auto-tune stylings to Jeezy’s Grammy-nominated single “Put On” and T.I.’s iconic posse-cut “Swagga Like Us,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In one week, he went from assisting 88-Keys on "Stay Up! (Viagra)" to premiering “Love Lockdown,” the first single off 808s & Heartbreak, at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Wearing a grey blazer emblazoned with a red heart (similar to the 808s album cover), he premiered a single that immediately was recognized as a drastic departure from his previous sound. “Love Lockdown” features minimalist production characterized by the Roland TR-808 drum machine, multiple synths, keyboards, and tribal drums.

The public grew skeptical of his coming album—and that he planned to record the entire project with auto-tune. Despite this, “Love Lockdown” debuted at No. 3 on the Hot 100 and became his fourth Platinum single, selling over three million copies. When finished, 88.3 percent of Kanye’s performance on 808s & Heartbreak utilized auto-tune.

“Love Lockdown” (September 18, 2008)

Inspiration: Like most of the other tracks on 808s & Heartbreak, the first single was inspired by Kanye's break-up with the designer Alexis Phifer.

Fun Fact: This was his first ever single to feature no rapping, just singing.

“Heartless” (November 4, 2008)

Standout Line: In chorus’ first two lines—“In the night, I hear 'em talk / The coldest story ever told”—Kanye mimics the intonation in the opening of Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover.”

Fun Fact: The single’s artwork is minimalistic, in line with the title; it’s literally heartless, sans the 808s heart motif.

“Amazing” feat. Young Jeezy (March 10, 2009)

Fun Fact: Kanye’s daughter North told Interview in 2017 that her favorite song was “Amazing”: My daddy’s song “Amazing.” So amazing!

Who Sampled: Def Jam’s Logic sampled the drum’s on the track for the song “Contact” on his second studio album The Incredible True Story.

“Paranoid” feat. Mr.Hudson & Kid Cudi (March 24, 2009)

Fun Fact: A remix featuring Rihanna was recorded in Fall 2008 but was never released.

Musical Easter Egg: “I could make you high, I can make you fly / Make you touch the sky, hey, maybe so” is a reference to Late Registration’s “Touch the Sky.”