Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam
808s & Heartbreak was a therapy session recorded on wax. Kanye's mother Donda West had recently passed away, he was dealing with a broken engagement to longtime girlfriend Alexis Phifer, and all the while continuing his ascent to the highest realms of mega-stardom.
This combination of abandonment, grief, and an extreme lifestyle allowed us to witness Kanye at his most fragile. The album saw Kanye singing more than ever before and exposing himself emotionally in a way that hip-hop had never seen.
It may have been controversial at the time, but this album is undoubtedly one of the most influential records of the past 10 years—and continues to serve as a guidepost for some of today's biggest hip-hop acts. Thanks to 808s, rappers now have the freedom to make melodies and to be more vulnerable than ever before. All that pain yielded some beautiful music.