“I was on drugs, dude,” Timbaland tells the interviewer, explaining that he got hooked on OxyContin while treating nerve damage from a teenage injury stemming from a gunshot wound. He says the problem was exacerbated by a lack of the chart success he had become accustomed to after two decades of world-conquering (and often world-altering) hits. “Once you’re not popping, it plays with your mind. The pills helped block out the noise — I’d just sleep all day. I remember JAY-Z told me one time, ‘Don’t do no more interviews’ — because I was saying crazy shit.” His girlfriend, Michelle, says she couldn’t sleep for a while because she was so worried he’d overdose overnight, and Tim says he came close once: “All I can tell you is that there was a light. I woke up trying to catch my breath, like I was underwater. But through that whole thing I saw life — I saw where I would be if I don’t change, and where I could be if I did.”
Timbaland claims reflecting on Michael Jackson’s fate helped him kick the habit, and he’s now sharing his struggles after watching friends including Chris Cornell and Prince pass away in recent years. There is another reason this particular story is running now, though: Timbaland is involved in a number of high-profile new albums, including a new Justin Timberlake LP he says is finished. The story doesn’t get into the sound of the album beyond this vague platitude from Tim: “The music we just made? It’s gonna put him on another plateau.” Tim has reportedly been in the studio lately with JAY-Z, Zayn Malik, Wiz Khalifa and jam-band country star Zac Brown, among others. He’s also working on a solo album and seeking out scrappy young SoundCloud rappers like $ki Mask the Slump God: “Right now, I feel like what I can do with my legacy is to give back. Which means finding the youth of today. Look at Quincy Jones — he was 50 when he did Thriller! What’s my Thriller!”
This article was originally published by Stereogum.