As Kanye West’s ‘808s and Heartbreak’ turns 10, will he ever inspire us again?

One of the only good things Kanye West has done this year is collectively reminded us that “Paranoid” exists. It’s a song that almost certainly wouldn’t make the cut for his setlist — if West still played live shows (he’s only made a handful of concert appearances since canceling his Saint Pablo tour in 2016) — a non-single, new-wave throwaway from his 2008 album “808s and Heartbreak.”

Yet, onstage at the Camp Flog Gnaw festival on Nov. 11, suspended in a transparent box mid-air, West and Kid Cudi — the rapper who West has also credited with crafting the sound of “808s” — muscled through an Autotune-free version of “Paranoid,” an incredibly rare live appearance of a song that isn’t just one of West’s underrated classics, but also emblematic of his most forward-thinking album.

“808s” turns 10 on Saturday, but critics certainly haven’t waited for the album’s anniversary to hail it a classic. Books’ worth of essays have been written about “808s” as the precedent for the next 10 years of hip-hop, depicting how West’s moody vocals and minimalist club beats inspired a generation of artists to blur the line between singing and rapping, to overshare their emotions in openly-emo lyrics, to make music that’s simultaneously made to party to and entirely joyless.

It’s a lineage that stretches from Drake and the Weeknd to the Soundcloud rap phenomenon of the past few years, and a look at the rappers on top of this week’s Hot 100 reveals just how broad the album’s influence can be extended — would Travis Scott and Juice WRLD be making the same kind of music if it wasn’t for “808s”?

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