Iconic Drum Machine Has Kanye's Number

By Kristina Loew,  Newser User
Posted Dec 4, 2008 1:45 PM CST
In this Sept. 26, 2007 file photo, rapper Kanye West arrives at the "Us Weekly Hot Hollywood 2007" party in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, file)
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(Newser) – Kanye West was just a toddler when Roland launched the TR-808 in 1980, but the drum machine has proven so influential that it figures in the title of the music titan's latest album, 808s and Heartbreak. "Today the 808 stands as hip-hop's answer to rock's Stratocaster—an iconic instrument that's changed the way we hear music," writes Chris Richards for Slate.

Intended as a relatively cheap tool for musicians recording demos, the 808 and its "distinct, low-frequency boom that rattles the kidneys as much as the eardrums" created an iconic sound—Richards calls it "an otherworldly vocabulary of tones that most pop musicians deemed unusable"—that found an avid following with hip-hop and rap musicians. And West "pays more than just lip service to his beat box of choice—his new album is full of thick, resonant 808 brawn."