Since the mid-1990s, super producer/songwriter Timbaland has revolutionized the sounds of modern pop, R&B and hip-hop, with artists like Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, JAY-Z and Justin Timberlake.
The Virginia native sat down for the latest episode of Complex‘s Blueprint video series to discuss reinventing himself, falling in love with music again and working with Justin Timberlake.
He called his love of music and his unique ear for unorthodox sounds “the gift that was untamed,” because initially he had no guidance. He credits Elliott with introducing him to melodies and shouts out mentors including Quincy Jones and Jimmy Iovine.
“The beauty of a hit is not knowing it’s a hit but you know it feels good,” he said.
He began working with Timberlake back in 2002 on “Cry Me a River” from JT’s solo debut Justified. He remembers watching Timberlake and his body language in the studio. “I went in the booth and I knew that sound would move him in a different way,” he recalls. “I knew the chemistry that we both had…like yeah, musically, we on to something.”
That same chemistry existed during Future Sex/Love Sounds in 2006. Timbaland continued to work off the energy of Timberlake, especially with the single, “SexyBack.” “I knew it was a feeling. Everybody was like, ‘That ain’t it,'” he said. “I said, ‘Yes, it is, that’s the one.’” The song later went on to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
He also discussed his battles with mental health and addiction and how it affected his music. “My fingers didn’t feel connected to the keyboard. It felt off…once me and the music disconnect, oh no, oh no,” the producer said. “God gave me the gift of music and that’s how God speaks to me through music, through sound.
“Right now, I’m at a peaceful level, I’m happy with myself and changing myself every day,” he added.
He now embraces new sounds from new producers and collaborating with artists of the next generation, like 6LACK, Sam Smith, Young Thug, Ty Dolla $ign, Wiz Khalifa and Zayn Malik, to name a few.
A new collaboration is already on the way with Timberlake. His new single, “Filthy,” which Timbaland co-produced, will be released Friday. “The music we just made? It’s gonna put him on another plateau,” he told Rolling Stone.
Watch Timbaland’s full Blueprint interview below.