The inspiring story of the Roland TR808, from the creation of Planet Rock which established it as a dynamic modern instrument, to how it defined hip hop and modern dance culture, through to its continued use today.


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  • ★★★★ review by kynky on Letterboxd

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    Growing up with acid house, techno, hardcore and jungle I've always loved the 808 drum machine and the music it produced.

    I never really noticed that Marvin Gaye, Rick Rubin & Phil Collins also used it to great effect.

    The documentary style is a bit clunky and some of the talking heads are a bit annoying (I love you Goldie but please stop doing these) but overall the music and the story behind how some of it was produced is enough for me.

    I was so happy that THIS tune got referenced

  • ★★★½ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd

    Zane Lowe provides the voiceover for a documentary about the machine that changed the modern music landscape in the 80's until today. Normally having to suffer Lowe's voice for 90 minutes would be too much to bear but as he isn't the focal point it is possible to block him out this time. The hero here is the Roland TR-808, the drum machine that became the foundation for countless genres of electronic music. And helping out Phil Collins along the way too.

    Rather than running through the past four decades in their entirety, director Alex Dunn rightly keeps the focus between the core years of 80-95, where its use and influence was developed. We are taken through some of the songs and artists that provided the stepping stones of the changing soundscape in the Western world. Although the focus is very US heavy and strangely omits mentioning any of the other TR machines in the series. The SP-1200 gets a brief mention, although they would fit more sensibly alongside the MPC in a doc focused on samplers.

    Quite a roll call of producers and artists are accessed too: Questlove (of course) 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Chris Frantz, Rick Rubin, New Order, Afrika Bambataa, , Soulsonic Force, Van Helden, David Guetta, Pharrell, Norman Cook, Hank Shocklee, Diplo, Lil John, Damon Albarn, Goldie, Todd Terry, Jam & Lewis, Phil Collins, T La Rock, Beastie Boys, Tony Carrasco, Felix Da Housecat and A-Trak. A very standard format but the solid content makes it a worthwhile doc to check out.

  • ★★★½ review by Jon Huddleston on Letterboxd

    An interesting look into the drum machine that changed music forever.

  • ★★★★ review by Shaun on Letterboxd

    Great doc, the tale of a machine that changed music and created new genres on its own.

    My old electro/dance/hiphop playlist including New Order, 808 State and LL Cool J - songs i used to listen to in high school (Instead of the Stone Roses following) are now back in my car for daily commutes.

    It takes a step into the introduction of Hip Hop which is another fascinating area of music told well in the 4 part mini-series Hip Hop Evolution on Netflix which is a good watch if interested.

  • ★★★★ review by EnteredTheVoid on Letterboxd

    As a hip-hop enthusiast, the drum machine represented by this documentary is the foundation of the great music I have known and loved for many years and one of the many reasons it is still loved to this day. Not a monumental documentary by any means, but it needs to be seen so people can see the roots of electronic music and how life changing this machine is/was.

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