The New Yorker on Timbaland

The New Yorker has a nice little article on Timbaland. My mom used to read this magazine I remember when they had a fifteen page article on Jimmy Iovine and his alleged mob ties. Anyway check the article after the jump…

At first, in the late eighties, he was DJ Timmy Tim—a kid named Timothy Mosley, from Virginia Beach, who liked creating beats in his bedroom. Then, in the nineties, he renamed himself Timbaland and began the stretch of work that has made him, against considerable competition, the most important producer of the past decade. A duo called the Neptunes, childhood friends of Mosley’s from Virginia Beach, gave Timbaland a run for his money at the beginning of the aughts but have been harder to find in the past few years, when Timbaland scored his two biggest successes, Nelly Furtado’s “Loose” and Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds.” The Michael Jordan to Timbaland’s Kobe Bryant, Dr. Dre, is the producer who recast hip-hop in the nineties, and whose crisp, high-resolution beats found their way into the larger pop world. Dre has had several sizable hits since 2000—50 Cent’s strangely stern but addictive “In Da Club” is at the top of this list—but since 1996, when Mosley showed up on the charts with a young singer named Aaliyah, the sound of pop music has drifted toward Timbaland. When you hear a rhythm that is being played by an instrument you can’t identify but wish you owned, when you hear a song that refuses to make up its mind about its genre but compels you to move, or when you hear noises that you thought couldn’t find a comfortable place in a pop song, you are hearing Timbaland, or school thereof.

Timbaland started out by changing the beat of R. & B. What had swung before began to stutter and syncopate in ways that felt both ancient and completely new. Listen to the hi-hat in a song like Aaliyah’s “One in a Million”—the patterns pause, and come back doubled and tripled, closer to tap dancing than to any dull timekeeping. Then the innovations began to bloom in size and style. Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” is among the most significant singles of the nineties: the beat refuses to fully engage, using more dead space than you would have thought possible in a hit. And it wasn’t just because Timbaland performed a cross-rhythm of mouth noises—pops and clicks. (Oh, and there’s a baby gurgling.) He was obviously heading somewhere else. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

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