Timbaland Brings An Artist's Sensibility To Producing
If the last five years are any indication, 2001 will likely be another chapter in a success story that has brought producer/artist Timbaland, aka Tim Mosley, tremendous notoriety and praise. With aIf the last five years are any indication, 2001 will likely be another chapter in a success story that has brought producer/artist Timbaland, aka Tim Mosley, tremendous notoriety and praise. With a long list of production, remixing, and writing credits, most of which are featured on, at minimum, double-platinum singles and albums, Timbaland is now receiving due credit for his magic touch -- he was named top hot R&B/hip-hop producer in Billboard's 2000 year-end issue, finishing the year with nine charting titles.
The Norfolk, Va., native is indeed one of the hottest producers in the business by virtue of his productions for artists such as Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Ginuwine, Aaliyah, Jay-Z, and Magoo, the latter of whom he has worked with since the duo were teens in Virginia. The 1996 hit "Pony" broke Ginuwine's career. But it was Aaliyah's "One In A Million," also in 1996, that propelled Timbaland to major recognition: He produced and wrote several tracks on the double-platinum release, including the title track, "If Your Girl Only Knew," "Heartbroken," and "Never Coming Back."
Continuing a string of hits with acts including SWV and Lil' Kim, Timbaland -- with Magoo -- then took his production skills higher on Elliott's acclaimed "Supa Dupa Fly" in 1997, which featured guest appearances from such artists as Busta Rhymes, Lil' Kim, Da Brat, and Aaliyah. With "Supa Dupa Fly" in fact, Elliott (who is also from Virginia), Magoo, and Timbaland have established the South as a hip-hop mecca to rival New York and Los Angeles.
With one hit after another for various artists, Timbaland quickly became one of the most in-demand producers in hip-hop. His production and remixes of tracks by such acts as Rhymes and All Saints are featured on the soundtracks to "Money Talks," "Soul Food," "Can't Hardly Wait," "Dr. Dolittle," and "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps." He has contributed heavily to Jay-Z's albums, adding his touch to several tracks on "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1," "Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life," and "Vol. 3 ... Life And Times Of S. Carter." His discography also includes Nas, Ludacris, Elsie Muniz, and Jodeci, among others.
As the act Timbaland & Magoo, the producer and his friend released the platinum-selling "Welcome To Our World" in 1997, which included the single "Up Jumps Da Boogie" (featuring Elliott and Aaliyah), a track that reached No. 12 on The Billboard Hot 100. Late in 2000, work commenced on a follow-up album. Often going all night, the team, which included engineer Jimmy Douglass, is working at the midtown Manhattan, N.Y., recording studio that has practically been Timbaland's home for the last few years. Though he has worked in Los Angeles, he prefers the vibe, not to mention the privacy, in this studio in the Big Apple.
Rough mixes of Timbaland & Magoo's latest work provide a glimpse of what the team has been up to while sequestered in the studio: creating overwhelmingly powerful, complex, and unique music, encompassing a wide array of instrumentation and styles. Sitting in the control room, one is simply blown away by the force of the sonic mosaic contained within a single track.
"I want to do a 5.1 [surround sound] mix of that one," confides Timbaland after the final song fades. The only barrier to a surround mix, he explains, is that his relentless work schedule won't currently allow it. Timbaland & Magoo's current project, "Indecent Proposal," had been ongoing for some six weeks at the time of this interview and is utmost in the minds of its creators, who provided insight into their creative process during an illuminating discussion in the studio's lounge.
"They already accept him," says Timbaland of Magoo, "but I think they're going to accept him on a whole other level. I feel like it's up there with 'Chronic 2001' [by Dr. Dre] -- it's got a lot of elements. They're going to really look at us as official, that's my personal opinion. Once they do that, I think he should just come right back out [with another album]. I don't think he should relax."
"You think I should come back out?" Magoo asks.
"Yeah, because you'll get better and better. I'm thinking one more time, because when you stop, it'll take at least three weeks to get back into the groove."
"You're right," Magoo answers.
"That's what happened when I first came up here," Magoo explains. "It took a long time to get used to being in a studio and being creative. Like he said, it's elements and vibes, and he's got a good vibe. He likes to be creative, and I know he loves music, so I know that he gets happy about making a track. Tim gets excited, so he makes you want to be creative. We're friends, but when I get in a studio I've got a different respect for him. He's a good director, so I don't like to write when I'm not around him. He makes me think a lot deeper than I would if I was just home writing."
Timbaland's genius, perhaps, lies in this creation of an atmosphere between himself, as producer, and the artist. Being an artist himself, he has a talent for integrating his abilities with the artist's, producing startlingly original work. Yet he has, until recently, kept a slightly lower profile than the artists with whom he works. In addition to "Welcome To Our World," Timbaland released his own "Tim's Bio" in 1998. "Indecent Proposal" is due in early 2001.
On top of the hip-hop world -- and on top of his considerable accomplishments -- Timbaland is widening his scope, recently working with Beck, Limp Bizkit, and No Doubt, three widely diverse rock acts. "I want to work with rock artists," he says. "No Doubt, Metallica, the Cranberries -- her [Dolores O'Riordan] voice is so gorgeous. I would work with BjÖrk too. I can do them all. It's where I'm at right now, creatively.
"I've got to be cocky for a minute," Timbaland admits. "I look at all these producers out there, and I like them all. But I can take a rugrat and build him to Willy Wonka. This man sold 2 million records!" he says, pointing to Magoo. "I bring everybody out of the hole! That's what I do."
The next moment, however, Timbaland is his soft-spoken self. "I look at it like this: I've got a job, and I just don't want to get laid off.