10 Reasons The Greatest Drummer Of All Time Is An Eighties Robot

From Beyoncé to the Beastie Boys, Roland TR-808’s signature robo-thump has kept time in pop's best tracks.
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From Beyoncé to the Beastie Boys, Roland TR-808’s signature robo-thump has kept time in pop's best tracks.
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It may be the world’s greatest drummer. When the now legendary TR-808 Rhythm Composer was introduced in 1980 by Japanese electronics company Roland, it was promptly deemed inferior to competing drum machines, which sounded less robotic and more real. Roland sold only 12,000 units, halting production of the 808 in 1983. Many ended up in pawn shops and Salvation Armys, but not for long. The groundbreaking beatbox soon found favor among daring musicians from the Bronx to Tokyo, and its unmistakable artificiality became ubiquitous across hip hop, pop, house, and techno inspiring everything from band names (808 State) to album titles (Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreaks). Now a new documentary, 808: The Movie, salutes the legacy of this landmark machine. Here are ten songs shaped by its inimitable sound — check out our March issue for a full timeline.

Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing” (1982)

New Order, “Confusion” (1983)

Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer (Live Version)” (1984)

Beastie Boys, “Brass Monkey” (1986)

Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (1987)

Usher, “Yeah” (2004)



Beyoncé, “Deja Vu” (2006)

Kanye West, “Love Lockdown” (2008)

The Black Eye Peas, “Boom Boom Pow” (2009)




DJ Snake & Lil Jon, “Turn Down for What” (2013)