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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  • ★★★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.

  • ★★★★ 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.

  • ★★★★ review by khal on Letterboxd

    You really don't realize how impactful the TR-808 drum machine is until you watch a doc like this. It's not the most mind-blowing documentary, but props to them for really sitting down with everyone from Rick Rubin to the dude who engineered Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" to get some knowledge.

  • ★★★★ review by David @1dmg on Letterboxd

    A very likeable documentary, but not without flaws and annoyances. The main one being the lack of time devoted to Roland and the 808's invention. It sounds great, I wish I could have seen this in a cinema, loud and heavy.

  • ★★★½ review by dominick h on Letterboxd

    808 felt kind of like a prolonged vox video, but it wasn't justified enough and not a lot of questions i had were answered. it was just a bunch of artists talking about how the 808 revolutionised a bunch of genres and changed their own music and it didnt really dive much deeper than that.

    the film featured a lot of familiar artists i love as well as introduce me to some interesting groups i haven't discovered yet (crispy ambulance, plastics). this film is great if you're looking for new artists and influences.

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