"One of the Greatest": An Interview with Timbaland
Tue, 03 Apr 2007 10:30:11
Given his central role in the recent evolution of popular music, it's hard to believe that after over a decade mega-producer Timbaland (aka Timothy Z. Mosley) is releasing just his second solo album, Timbaland Presents: Shock Value. Father of one of the most recognizable styles in contemporary pop, R&B, and hip-hop, Timbaland has fostered dozens upon dozens of hits. In 2006 alone, he produced Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" and "Promiscuous" and Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" and "My Love"—standouts among a slew of charting productions.
If Timbaland has his way, 2007 will be no different: There will be no break from the constant production that has made his addictive style nearly ubiquitous. And, stepping it up a notch, he intends to cement his legacy. "Give me this year," the producer told ARTISTDirect. "I started in 1992 and now it's 2007, so 2008. You gotta get some war stripes under your belt before you be saying I'm the top. I am, to me, one of the greatest—but I can't overlook those people that were great before me."
With the projects he's got slated, it's conceivable that another year as strong as 2006 could elevate Timbaland from the pantheon of good producers—Steve Albini, Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre—to the level of one known more for his era of dominance than for specific albums. Timbaland can never be faulted for keeping bad company. A quick look at his forthcoming 2007 collaborations reveals a stellar lineup: Madonna, Björk, Coldplay, and Duran Duran, in addition to rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and 50 Cent.
Tim's deep Rolodex is where Shock Value succeeds. The album has a mixtape-style informality and loads of stars—Elton John, Dr. Dre, Missy Elliott, JT, 50, Furtado. Some of the cameos feel businesslike, a payback for a track, lacking the gusto a vocalist or rapper would lend his or her own album. But the producer's recent inner circle—Furtado, Timberlake and former Swing Mob crony Elliott—shine on the sweet yet menacing debut single, "Give It To Me," and the dirty Dre-led strip track "Bounce." And a few of the team-ups are genuinely surprising. The collaboration with goth-rockers She Wants Revenge, in particular, stands out as a great marriage—a Bauhaus-y meditation, "Time" rides on a darkly infectious hook that swings like a corpse hanging from the rafters.
These strange meetings of worlds have become one of Timbaland's trademarks. But his ever-expanding musical palette isn't solely a trip into the audio fancies of Timothy Z. Mosley. It's an effort that, with a democratic touch, Timbaland says he wants feedback on: "What I really want... is for people to take a poll and see if they think I should do a volume two, and who they would like me to work with," he says. "I want to do an online campaign. Tally up all of it and see if they all come up with the same answers—and also all the different answers that people come up with. Like let's say there's 10 for Coldplay, there might be 7 for Madonna. And from all that I want to do what the fans want me to do."
Let your mind wander on the possibilities of Tim's people's choice, and the exceedingly ambitious reach of Shock Value is redeemed—and popular music's foremost producer, yet again, leaves us wondering what he'll do next.
- Nick Parish
Timbaland's new album, Timbaland Presents Shock Value, is available in the ARTISTdirect store.