What are teens into these days? The only thing more interesting than figuring out what the new generation thinks is lit is discovering what it thinks of art that was very relevant to your generation. To glean a little insight I decided to interview a teenager about an album that has been in conversation lately and is considered a seminal work of art, Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak.
First, a little backstory as to how I know this teenager, Nick Turturro (as in son of actor Nicholas Turturro, Jr, nephew of John). In 2013, I, along with my friend and my dad, attended the afterparty for Grown Ups 2, which was exponentially more lit than the film (obviously). Nick came up to me thinking I was an actor who played one of Chris Rock’s kids. I corrected him and called him racist. Next thing you know we’re debating Yeezus versus Born Sinner while his dad is shooting the shit with my dad.
Since that party the little homie frequently texts me to talk all things rap. When he hit me talking about Kanye's 808s & Heartbreak show at the Hollywood Bowl, I pressed him for details since info and video from the show was strangely scarce. Instead, he told me the girl he took as a date to the show "broke his heart" the day after they went, thus making him appreciate in a new light what's heralded as the breakup album of our time. I had to hop on the phone to get this tale firsthand. Apparently, 808s is relevant to all generations.
As told to Frazier Tharpe
WELCOME TO HEARTBREAK
"I’m 15. I was about 8 or 9 [when 808s & Heartbreak dropped]. I was hearing some songs on the radio. 'Heartless' of course. I liked the album back then ’cause it was a bit different. It wasn’t the typical Kanye West album at the time. My first interaction with Kanye['s music] was Late Registration, I think. I was pretty aware back then that it was very big what Kanye was doing. It was different, his whole style changed, for that album. I think he broke off his engagement and his mom died, right?
"I was a very jumpy kid when I was little, so of course I was fuckin' with 'Heartless,' 'Love Lockdown.' I liked 'Paranoid,' I liked the beat. Then the other stuff I kinda dabbled through. I liked them, but, you know, at that point it was mostly the songs that you could jam to. You know 808s was kind of ahead of its time. Nobody was doing the shit that he did on that album. A lot of people either really loved it or they hated it. Back then I think gangsta rap was still popular, right? Not that it isn’t popular now, but that was more the norm for rap.
"I heard rumors that he was gonna do a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I saw him at Coachella as a guest surprise, he did like five songs. It was dope. I could not miss out [on the concert] so I told my mom get the tickets. But then when I read online that he was performing 808s, I was a bit unsure because why the fuck are you doing an album from 2008, first off? I understand [him performing] two or three songs from that, but to me I just didn’t understand the whole tone of it. Why he was doing it? It just didn’t make sense to me. Regardless if it was 808s or not, we were taking dates. We went to a concert with these girls before and it was a fuckin' blast."
DATE NIGHT AT HOLLYWOOD BOWL
"I used to date [my date to the concert] when I was a little younger. We weren’t friends for a little while. After Coachella we started talking a little bit more and hanging out.That night the Uber comes, has an aux cord, we’re bumping Travi$ Scott's Rodeo. We get to the concert, walk up to the venue—it’s kind of like in the hills a little bit, it’s kind of hidden. We get fries, share a big lemonade, and she was trying to pull her money out. I paid for it, of course, cause I’m a fuckin' gentleman.
"Kanye comes on. He starts off with 'Say You Will.' He did the album in order. I didn’t expect that, I thought he was gonna perform the album and then perform some bangers. But the thing was that he did it in the Yeezus theme, [with] like the really interesting clothing, people dressed certain ways...it was very interesting. I thought he might go back to the old 808s theme with those sunglasses, how he dressed. The Yeezus theme worked, I thought. The last song was 'Pinocchio Story.' At this point the concert was about an hour and ten minutes, and since he's a solo artist I would expect him to do more music, but it was over. We were like, the fuck, an hour?
"We go to Fat Sal’s, have these bomb-ass gyros. Food was great, we’re all enjoying ourselves, obviously I paid for it. [In the Uber home] I put on some slow music, nice chill PND type of stuff, 'Pray For Love.' Night: 9 out of 10. Well, night more like 10 out of 10, honestly. Concert about an 8 and a half out of 10 'cause I felt it wasn’t him being lazy, but I thought for the money twelve songs is a bit ridiculous."
THE BAD NEWS
"That night I decided to really listen to 808s. I wanted to get the actual gist of the album 'cause when you’re at a concert you can’t really tell some of the shit that’s going on, you kinda just get in the vibe. I took off my headphones after 'Pinocchio Story' and I’m just like kind of emotional. The next day, I wake up, I go boxing. I started listening to that song 'Paranoid.' Then I started getting paranoid about weird shit. I kept listening to the album and it just kept affecting me and I was like, what the fuck what’s going on? I get a call from [my date to the show] out of nowhere. I was paranoid 'cause we weren’t talking on Monday, so I wasn’t sure. She basically told me that she doesn’t want to get into being with me 'cause we’ve been so close in the last few months, and, 'You became like one of the greatest people I know, I can’t fuck that up.' I just didn’t know what to say. I was like I took you out we had a great weekend and my mind was kinda just like, jeez what do I do in this situation? I texted her saying I’ll always be here for you blah blah blah. I said, 'You know you’re one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had, I’d hate to lose you,' etc.
"A lot of the meanings of the songs kept telling me something in my head. I listened to the album [after the breakup] and holy shit, Kanye, what the fuck you been going through? Like, damn! It’s very personal, a lot of people can relate to it and there’s people that can’t relate to it. If you’re one that can, it touches you. You feel me? I think my generation sees it as, Oh it’s a dope album, it’s deep. But I think this album could be timeless. It’s something that has yet to come from a lot of artists. There are artists who can write one or two tracks about a girl they like, but this whole fucking album is very depressing. Even the songs like 'Heartless,' 'Robocop,' 'Amazing,' are kind of sad. They’re very sad and personal. When Kanye was making them I don’t think he was looking at it from a fun perspective.
"I liked 'Paranoid' back then, but you really don’t get the meaning until you've gone through a break. Now I kinda get the meaning. I like 'Welcome to Heartbreak,' 'Say You Will.' It’s very different, it’s a cultivation. It’s not just one or two tracks, it’s the whole album talking about one thing. He’s using the same idea in different tones and it worked."