Timbaland gets ready to ‘Shock’
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ó Timbaland is used to causing double takes with his music. Now he’s hoping to make a few jaws drop, as well.
The producer, who in the past year helped put Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado atop the pop heap with platinum albums and torrid singles, strives for a new level of creativity April 3 with his genre-busting album Timbaland Presents Shock Value. After more than a decade of flooding the airwaves with hip-hop and R&B hits, the adventurous beatmaker blends rap, rock, R&B, punk and world music in his constant quest to stay ahead of the curve.
For first single Give It to Me, he calls in favors from Timberlake and Furtado, and he also collaborates with 50 Cent, Bjˆrk, The Hives, Elton John, Fall Out Boy, She Wants Revenge, Dr. Dre and Sri Lankan rapper MIA.
Timbaland does some rapping himself, but his boundary-busting ambitions will be realized in the soundscapes he masterminds.
“This is just me showing my versatility,” says Timbaland (Tim Mosley), 36, aboard his tour bus in back of the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena.
“I like being mainstream. There is nothing wrong with hip-hop, and I do a lot of it on my album. But I want to make global music that reaches everybody.
“It’s shocking when you hear all the different types of music. It’s pretty intense. When people hear it I want them to go, ‘Hmmm. I would have never thought of that.’ ”
Shock Value is his first album since 2003’s Under Construction: Part II, the third album he did with longtime friend and rapper Magoo. While his previous albums have usually been well received critically, they’ve never been big commercially. His current hot streak and tour with Timberlake, however, have changed things.
“It’s different because my stardom level has gone up,” says Timbaland, who always has been low-key compared with other celebrated producers. “The way people look at me is totally different, and I have a whole new fan base.”
Industry observers think he could be right. Timbaland, who has at times said he was bored with hip-hop, could skirt the sales doldrums besetting the genre by expanding his horizons.
“The climate for music is so bad right now, it will depend on whether pop radio picks up on it and whether he is seen as a pop star,” says Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur, co-owner of Allhiphop.com. “Historically, his albums haven’t fared well, but he’s put himself in a different light with the groundwork he’s laid with the work he’s done recently. It will be interesting to see if he gets the same attention as Justin or Nelly Furtado.”
Vibe associate music editor Sean Fennessey says Timbaland always has been innovative as a hip-hop and R&B producer, but he has probably gone as far as he can creatively go. Working with other kinds of artists is a natural step for Timbaland, who appreciates a broad variety of sounds.
“I think he is genuinely a fan of rock music,” he says. “He is an Elton fan, he is a Fall Out Boy fan, and that is why he wants to work with these people. I don’t think he thinks of things in genres, either. He just thinks this is hot or not hot.
“What he does is universal music. It’s very smart music, and at the same time, it’s very danceable.”
Furtado says Timbaland knows how to bring out the best in an artist. She says his enthusiasm for the music is infectious.
“When I work with Timbaland in the studio, I feel elevated and electric,” she says. “He has an innate musical knowledge and sense of groove that cannot be quantified. Tim has been blessed by God with an incredible sense of rhythm. His production is full of primal energy. This energy really empowers me in the studio.”
Timbaland has been on the road on Timberlake’s Future Sex/LoveShow World Tour since January, and he has been previewing bits of Shock Value during a 20-minute DJ set in the middle of the pop star’s two-hour concert. It’s his first real tour, and he says he loves creating beats on stage.
He was not surprised when Timberlake asked him to join the tour.
“We’re the best of friends, and we look at it as a team package,” says Timbaland, who adds the singer also helped him during the album’s production by providing a different perspective on the music.
The 38-stop tour hasn’t kept him from his busy production schedule. He has a fully equipped recording studio on the bus ó sort of a recording home away from home from his 5,000-square-foot facility in Virginia Beach. (He also has a residence in Miami.)
Chris Brown, 50 Cent and Rihanna are among the stars he has connected with while traveling. He says that whenever he has to, “we just pull over and go to work.”
The Norfolk, Va.-born artist/producer has been putting in work since the early ’90s, working as DJ Tiny Tim and collaborating with Missy Elliott and rapper Melvin Barcliff (Magoo). They got their first break when Elliott’s girl group, Sista, was signed by Jodeci member/producer DeVante Swing to his Swing Mob label. That’s where he was nicknamed Timberland, after the popular boots.
He was also a part of a production group, S.B.I. (Surrounded by Idiots), which included another star producer in the making, the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams.
Timbaland worked on several projects at Swing Mob, but by 1995, most of the acts, including Elliott and R&B singer Ginuwine, had moved on.
A year later, Timbaland produced the latter artist’s debut album, Ginuwine Ö The Bachelor, which included the hit Pony. The song’s complex drum patterns, stuttering bass lines and quirky sound effects became a Timbaland trademark and spawned numerous imitators.
He teamed with Elliott to write and produce Aaliyah’s double platinum One in a Million. That success raised all of their profiles, and he had hits with the likes of Destiny’s Child, Nas, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson and SWV. The bulk of his work, however, was concentrated on albums for his closest associates, including his own solo album and one with Magoo.
By 2001, he was still churning out hits. He introduced his new Beat Club imprint with rapper Bubba Sparxxx’s Dark Days, Bright Nights and worked with such new acts as Tweet, Ms. Jade and Petey Pablo. Tragedy struck late that year when Aaliyah died in a plane crash. He keeps a portrait of her on his tour bus.
In 2002, he collaborated with star producer Scott Storch on several tracks on Timberlake’s solo debut album, Justified. He has maintained a steady presence on the radio since then with hits for Xzibit, Brandy, Jennifer Lopez, Elliott, Tweet, LL Cool J, Pussycat Dolls and The Game.
During this time, his infusion of Asian and Middle Eastern rhythms into productions once again had other urban beatmakers scrambling to catch up.
“I listen to some of everything, and the rhythms come from me studying the world and seeing what’s really out there besides us,” Timbaland says. “I’m not stuck on one thing. That’s just me.”
He formed the Mosley Music Group in 2005 after his Beat Club deal folded. Furtado was his first signee and her smash Loose its initial album. Shock Value is next, and he plans to put out albums by alternative rock band OneRepublic and singer/songwriter Keri Hilston (who has written tunes for Mary J. Blige, Chingy, Chris Brown, Omarion, Usher, Letoya Luckett and others) later this year.
Other acts signed to the label include his brother Sebastian (Garland Mosley) and production partner Nate “Danja” Hills.
Currently, he’s embroiled in a feud with Storch. Timberlake’s Grammy-winning hit Cry Me a River, from Justified, was one of their joint efforts. Storch is credited with playing piano on the track but not as a co-producer, as Storch says he should have been. Timbaland disses Storch without mentioning his name on Give It to Me; Storch fired back at him on a song called Built Like That.
“Scott is not really in my league,” Timbaland says. “I don’t dislike him. I like him, but as a producer he can’t see me. He don’t have a fan base like I’ve got.”
Storch has produced hits for Fat Joe, 50 Cent, BeyoncÈ and many others.
Timbaland says he has several high-profile collaborations in the works, but he’s sworn to silence about them. Reports have him working with Duran Duran, Nicole Scherzinger and possibly Madonna. He has broached the idea of recording with troubled pop princess Britney Spears, although nothing is in the works.
“All I’ve said is that I was tired of people talking about her,” he says. “I like Britney as a person. People should leave her alone and let her get her life in order and not write about her every five minutes. That doesn’t show that you care about her. It just shows that you build a person up so that you can tear them down.”
Nothing seems likely to tear him down soon. He already has done songs this year for the likes of Omarion, Bobby Valentino, Redman and Fabolous, thus satisfying his core fans’ need for “dope beats to step to” while constantly finding new ones.
He says isn’t sure why his music lately has had such broad appeal. He just shrugs his shoulders and says, “I don’t know what I’ve tapped into. I’m just enjoying life and having fun.”
Timbaland gets ready to ‘Shock’