808: The Meaning and History of a Legendary Drum Machine
Have you ever wondered what the 808 sound is that you hear in many hip-hop and pop songs? It’s not just a random number, but a reference to a legendary electronic drum machine that changed the music industry. In this article, we will explore the meaning and history of the 808, and how it influenced some of the most iconic songs and artists of all time.
What is the 808?
The 808 is the common nickname for the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, an electronic drum machine that was released in 1980 and discontinued in 1983. It was one of the first programmable drum machines that allowed users to create their own beats and rhythms using analog synthesis. The 808 had 16 different drum sounds, such as bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat, cowbell, and hand clap. The most distinctive feature of the 808 was its bass drum sound, which was very deep and powerful, and could be tuned to produce a long decay or a short punch. The 808 bass drum sound became synonymous with low-frequency music and subwoofers.
How did the 808 become popular?
The 808 was not very successful when it first came out, because it was considered too unrealistic and artificial for the electronic music scene of the time. It was also relatively expensive and had limited availability. However, it soon found its way into the hands of some innovative producers and musicians who recognized its potential and used it creatively. The 808 became especially popular in the underground hip-hop and rap scenes, where it was used to create hard-hitting beats and bass lines that complemented the vocals and lyrics. The 808 also became associated with Atlanta’s hip-hop scene in the 1990s, where it was used to create a subgenre known as trap music, which featured fast hi-hats, snappy snares, and booming kicks.
What are some examples of songs that use the 808?
The 808 has been used in countless songs across various genres, from pop to rock to R&B to techno. Some of the most famous examples are:
- Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye (1982): One of the first mainstream songs to feature the 808, this soulful ballad used the drum machine to create a smooth and sensual groove.
- Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force (1982): This pioneering electro-funk song combined the 808 with synthesizers and vocoders to create a futuristic and influential sound.
- I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston (1987): This upbeat pop song used the 808 to create a catchy and danceable rhythm that showcased Houston’s powerful vocals.
- Yeah! by Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris (2004): This smash hit used the 808 to create a club anthem that blended R&B, hip-hop, and crunk.
- Love Lockdown by Kanye West (2008): This minimalist song used only the 808 and West’s auto-tuned vocals to create a haunting and emotional track.
What is the spiritual meaning of 808?
Besides being a musical term, 808 is also considered an angel number, which is a message from your guardian angel. According to some sources , seeing 808 is symbolic of finding new love, dealing with change, and having faith. It’s a sign that you’re being guided toward a greater fulfillment and unlocking your true, higher purpose in life. Hold on to your faithâwhether it’s in God, the universe, or another powerâand trust your instincts.
The 808 is more than just a number or a soundâit’s a cultural phenomenon that has shaped music history and inspired generations of artists and listeners. It’s also a spiritual message that reminds us to follow our hearts and pursue our dreams. The next time you hear an 808 beat, remember that it