But you are over looking an aspect of artistry in and of its self. You say "If Kanye wants to experiment with different sounds and develop as a artist that's completely fine" but then to some extent want to place boundaries on how he does it. Just because an aspect of what an artist does caught your attention that does not mean that that is how they define themselves. What you refer to as his "Roots" may just been a page he was on at that time that is only significant because it is the spark that started the fire.
I have a ton of friends that are artist. I engineer and have spent hundreds and hundreds of ours in the studio when they are creating. I've seen people I know get buzzing off of stuff that they did on a whim or during a phase that they were in at a time and is no way reflective of what they are now or want to be doing in the future. This Idea of a "Core sound" is a box created by fans for what they like. 808's is a decent project if you listen to it outside of what you "expect" and album to be from Kanye. As an artist he should constantly tinker with his sound and why should he be a slave to some "distinctive" sonic elements that you a.ssociate with him if he doesn't hold the same affection for it? The Greats NEVER did that.
Some people are driven creatively further than others and as an artist he is doing what he is supposed to do, creating passion about his music whether its love or hate. If Ye was still in the vein of CD or LR in any way I don't think people would be as passionate about his music as they are. A friend told me you want them to either love you or hate you... nothing in between.
I don't think I'm placing boundaries simply for the fact that this is Hip-Hop at the end of the day. For example, I like "Can't Stop" on Watch The Throne but if Ye did a whole album with sounds like that a lot of people wouldn't support it.
You see what I'm saying?
It's kind of the same way most of us ain't checking for a Lil Wayne rock album. That album is directed towards a different part of his demographic group, if he said my next album is gonna have a lot of influential rock themes, he won't get a large support from the Hip-Hop community.
And when I say roots the perfect example I can point to is Michael Jackson. He started off as a R&B singer, became a pop icon, tried his hand at disco, got into jack swing, dabbled with rock but all in all he stayed true to his roots as a R&B singer. He may have evolved as a artist, tinkered with his sound but he was always a contemporary R&B singer who made great pop music.
Does Kanye have passion for music? I should be shot for asking that question. My whole thing is whether he still has a passion for making hip-hop music, that feel it in your heart soul music.
Props to you being a engineer though, I know a lot of blood, sweat & tears comes out of that room.