Roland TR-808 Drum machine, Foto by Eriq

If the electric guitar is the icon of the rock-era, Rolands Drum machine „TR-808“ is maybe the most symbolically charged instrument of electronic influenced music styles from hip-hop to techno.
The TR-808 is widely seen as the symbol and milestone for a change in music production and music reception [1]:
at its launch in 1981 it had an affordable price, and it had a concept for programming beats, which “allowed [..] the 808 to perform extremely complex rhythms that a live drummer could perhaps not accurately play, thus creating one use for the TR-808 in live performance.” [1].
This finally led to “an influential presence in today’s popscape” [2], with all the cultural and devotional habits that come with such status.
Apart from uncountable hardware and software replicas there exist a wide range of devotional objects. I picked a list of them representing the cult of the TR-808:

MR-808: The Drum Robot Installation MR 808 by Moritz Simon geist. The 3,3×1.7m² installation emulates the sounds of the 808 – with robots playing the drums!
Photo: Jürgen Lösel

Posters stating the programs for famous 808 tracks by Rob Ricketts

MR-808: A TR-808 replica robot sound installation by Moritz Simon geist.

Questionable T-Shirts layout by

Legostyle 808 by subclub

3D-Modell of the TR-808 at Google 3D Warehouse

The 08.08.2008
Musicthing annonced the 808-Day
The next 808-Celebrating day might be the 08.08.2808, but who knows what gadget will rise to be the cultural icon in the next 800 years. Foto by BullDog1


[1] Jillian Reddy: „From Kitsch to Kanye: The Meteoric Rise of the TR-808
[2] Richards, Chris. „What’s an 808?“ Slate. 2 Dec. 2008.

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One Response to 808 Cult

  1. Manuel sagt:

    The 808 always has been influential for Hip Hop and other genres and still will be in the future. But on my opinion it nowadays has been a bit overused by some producers. The idea to use it on merchandise in order to honor it is a great idea.

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