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The Evolution of Auto-Tune in Hip-Hop

What is Auto-Tune?

Auto-Tune, since its creation in 1997, has helped singers correct bad notes and wavering pitch in their vocals. Artists’ dependency on it has become a heavily controversial topic in the Hip-Hop genre as some artists has used it so extensively that their vocals can sound robotic at times. Although controversial, its creation has greatly helped the music industry to improve vocals and fix small pitch changes.


Who created Auto-Tune?

Auto-Tune was originally created in 1996 by Dr. Andy Hildebrand who was a former engineer at Exxon (a predominant oil company). At Exxon Dr. Hildebrand worked heavily on developing sonar technology to detect oil pockets in the soil. After leaving Exxon, Dr. Hildebrand re-engineered this technology to detect vocal pitch corrections instead of oil pockets. Originally, it was meant to be an undetectable tool for artists, but as time has passed it has turned into its own vocal style.


How has it gained so much popularity in the genre?

Even though Auto-Tune at its creation was a heavily useful tool to the music industry it was not widely used among artists until after Cher’s breakout single “Believe” which went on to spark the widespread adoption of Auto-Tune among musicians. The first Hip-Hop artist to take Auto-Tune to the extreme was Florida born artist: T-Pain. After being discovered by some major record labels, T-Pain recorded and released his debut album, Rappa Ternt Sanga, on December 6, 2005. The album went on to become a massive commercial success reaching sales of 500,000 units and consequently was the reason for Auto-Tune’s popularity in the mid 2000s.

While Auto-Tune may have been commercialized by T-Pain and Cher in the beginning, the real evolution of the tool came with Kayne West’s experimentation. After Rappa Ternt Sanga, Kayne built on T-Pain’s innovation with his ode to Auto-Tune on 808s & Heartbreak. Kayne on this album took the instrument further than any artist before him by using the technology to amplify his emotions instead of pushing the instrument to its limit. While the album wasn’t positively received at its release, 808s eventually turned out to be a massive commercial success and went on to cement Auto-Tune as an essential part of the Hip-Hop genre.

In recent years, Auto-Tune has only grown in popularity among Hip-Hop artists. Its use can be seen in the top artists in the genre today such as Migos, Travis Scott, and many more. Thanks to the innovations of early adopters of Auto-Tune, like Kayne West and T-Pain, the technology has come a long way since its creation and has gone on to help numerous artists in showing their creativity.


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