Atlantic Records
December 09, 2016 at 02:16 PM EST

The Roland TR-808 debuted in the ’80s and pop music was, effectively, changed forever. Dance music and hip-hop adopted its low-end bass technology immediately and its jagged effect now flood the Top 40 charts. Starting Friday, Dec. 9, 808, a documentary that traces the machine’s history and features interviews with Questlove, Pharrell Williams, Phil Collins, and more is streaming on Apple Music. 

To pair with the release, Alex Noyer (executive producer) and Arthur Baker (co-producer who has also produced music for Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Patrol, and New Order) put together a thumping playlist of their favorite 808 appearances in music. 

Yellow Magic Orchestra, “1000 Knives”

Noyer: “This is a highlight of how the earliest 808 use sounded, how bands became a little bit like kraftwerk — so a really odd, electronic sound. In 1981 this sounded almost alien. It still gives me a little pinch every time I hear it. It’s incredibly powerful.”

Charanjit Singh, “Raga Bhairav”

Noyer: “Charanjit Singh was a Bollywood session musician and, it turns out, the originator of acid house. He never claimed that, and a lot of acid house scholars might chop my head off for that, but the fact is that in 1982 he dropped this track which is how we now hear acid house, which came much later in the ’80s. That was an amazing surprise — I mean, a Bollywood session musician inventing acid house!”

S.O.S. Band, “Just Be Good To Me”

Baker: “Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis married the 808 to the world of R&B and created this classic. I first heard it on my alarm clock radio, the cowbell sticking out like only a Roland cowbell can. I felt like the world had discovered our secret.”

Lil’ Louis, “French Kiss”

Noyer: “This is the first place where I became aware of how a beat can control an audience. Here, it slows down, speeds up, puts you in the mood — it’s hypnotizing.” 

New Order, “Confusion”

Baker: “This was the first of the 808 by a rock group. This played very well at NYC’s funhouse, as you can see in the video.”

Eazy-E, “Boyz-n-the-Hood”

Noyer: “This really showed the hip-hop credentials of the 808, which, in 1988, was still favored for synthy, electronic music. It showed how it can create attitude — the rapping was original, the message was original, and when you put the raw beats behind it, it’s just insane.”

T La Rock and Jazzy Jay, “It’s Yours”

Baker: “This was one of the first tracks to get that boomin’ bass 808 sound on a rap record — along with it being the first Def Jam Record produced by Rick Rubin. I signed this on one listen, thinking it truly captured the real vibe of a live rap performance. [It] foreshadowed the 808 use in Beastie Boys and LL Cool J records.” 

Beastie Boys, “Paul Revere”

Noyer: “If I had to pick one track that shows the greatest use of the 808, it’s this. The 808 is so imperfect. It’s so full of glitches, but that’s also why it’s so amazing — it forced people to really mess with it. Here, Adam Yauch re-worked the 808 and created this vacuum beat!”

Usher, “Yeah!” ft. Lil’ Jon, Ludacris

Baker: “Produced by Lil’ Jon, this is an early example of the Southern hip-hop, crunk style made from exclusively using an 808 and big synth line. This might be the biggest-selling record using the 808 of all time, with the exception of [Marvin Gaye’s] ‘Sexual Healing’.”

Lil’ Wayne, “Let The Beat Build”

Noyer: “So jump over 20 years and you’re hearing a track that’s basically an 808 kick, an 808 snare, and a soulful sample. There we have, again, an artist who has a whole lot of attitude relying on raw 808 beats to deliver his message. It summarizes Lil’ Wayne so well, and it needed so little. It’s amazing.”

Kanye West, “Love Lockdown”

Noyer: “You know Kanye West didn’t name his album 808s & Heartbreak by mistake. Imagine mixing tribal beats with 808 kick drum at full decay — ‘full decay’ being its dirtiest form — it was genius!”

Jamie xx, “Gosh”

Noyer: “You use the 808 to innovate. It’s a special sound; it’s hard to classify. Here, the clear, recognizable beat is layered with the grandeur of [Jamie’s] production. Epic doesn’t even start to cover it.”

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