Two years ago at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, the production company You Know Films unveiled a compelling documentary that showcased the history of the Roland TR-808 drum machine. Created back in the 1980s, this instrument is considered to be one of the most iconic instruments in the history of hip hop. After creating hype at the prestigious film event, the documentary 808 is finally seeing a public release via Apple Music. 

Working in association with Atlantic Films, You Know Films is looking to share the story of how this simple instrument became one of the most popular and timeless production tools of all-time. The documentary is narrated by Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, and features interviews with Questlove, Pharrell, Rick Rubin, David Guetta, Phil Collins, and many others. 

Each legend featured in 808 shares their unique personal experience with the musical instrument. Even those who haven’t used the Roland TR-808 drum machine to produce music, such as the film’s narrator Zane Lowe, understand the major impact that this instrument has had on hip-hop and a number of other musical genres. 


"The 808 has left an impactful mark on my life; it's been the driving force for so may of my favorite records and I jumped at the chance to be involved," said Lowe. "I wanted to learn more about how this incredible drum machine came to exist and it’s been exciting to hear other people’s stories and what it means to them. It’s the magic ingredient.”    

The documentary is written by Alexander Dunn (also the director) and Luke Bainbridge and produced by Alex Noyer. Not only does 808 contain a legendary cast of interviewees, the documentary also comes equipped with a diverse soundtrack that covers the entire history of the 808. The album, called 808: The Music, will feature classic tracks like Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”, to newer songs like “Nothing But Trouble” by Lil Wayne and Charile Puth.

Here’s the official tracklist for 808: The Music below, which is being released on November 25 via Big Beats Records:

1. Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, "Planet Rock"

2. Beastie Boys, "Paul Revere"

3. Public Enemy, "Yo! Bum Rush the Show"

4. Man Parrish, "Hip Hop Be Bop (Don’t Stop)"

5. Planet Patrol, "Play At Your Own Risk"

6. Shannon, "Let The Music Play"

7. Strafe, "Set It Off"

8. T La Rock / Jazzy J, "It’s Yours"

9. 808 State, "Flow Coma"

10. Felix da Housecat, "Kickdrum"

11. Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, "What U Gon’ Do" (feat. Lil Scrappy)

12. Flux Pavilion, "Vibrate"

13. Jamie xx, "Gosh"

14. Lil Wayne & Charlie Puth, "Nothing But Trouble"  

Needless to say, if you’re a fan of hip hop, electronica, or just music in general, 808 is a must-see documentary. The film will debut as an Apple Music exclusive on December 9, and will be officially available for download and rental on December 16.