Timbaland: How he changed the game (Part 1)
Timbaland is not only one of the best hip hop producers ever, but he is one of the best music producers of all time. In my opinion, he’s up there with Phil Spector, Quincy Jones, Rick James, Prince, Burt Bacharach etc.
New Jack Swing was dominating the airwaves. The man credited as the creator of the genre was the legendary Teddy Riley. He and Devante Swing were to discover Timbaland (then known as DJ Timmy Tim) through their artist Missy Elliott who was a frequent collaborator with him in school.
At 19, Timbaland was signed to Swing Mob and Missy was signed there also, in a group named Sista.
Devante and Teddy were perfectionists. The Swing Mob roster would often stay in the studio aka The Bassment, for days on end, until Devante and Teddy were satisfied with the tracks being laid down. Timbaland and Mr Dalvin ghost produced many records for Teddy and Devante while they were in The Swing Mob. Some of these tracks were on Jodeci – Diary of a Mad Band and their next effort, The Show, The After Party, The Hotel.
He was finally fully credited on Jodeci-What About Us (Swing Mob Remix). Timbaland then went on to produce the Sista album. This record is extremley rare and features early Timbaland production. His sound was mostly sampled breaks, live basslines and soft guitar rifts. Note how the guitar has been a recurring feature throughout his career.
The Timbaland Sound is born:
In 1996 R’n’B had been redifined. New Jack Swing was no more. No longer a 90-100 bpm genre, it was vastly reduced to a soothingly slow 60-70 bpm. Timbaland would use a scattering rythym, not unknown to Drum n Bass or Jungle music, which was moving at double time. This created what is known as a polyrythym. Snares were purposedly left off beat, kicks would appear in places that were unorthordox, hi-hats would stutter across, no longer following a 1-2 -1-2 rythym. Drum programming was changed forever. The kick was a punchy, low pitched sound, the snare was short and high pitched, and at times, it would be eq’d on top of another snare.
The Timbaland Sound in 1996- 1998 was a consistent winning streak. Three groundbreaking and innovative albums were released, where Timbaland did all or most of the production duty.
Aaliyah: One In A Million/Ginuwine: The Bachelor:/Missy Elliott: Supa Dupa Fly.
His sampling technique involved changing the pitch of everyday noises and voices, he would combine this with a futuristic and complex keyboard riff. Some samples were chopped and the release was altered making them almost unrecognisable.Every now and then guitars would appear, whether live or sampled. Moogs, synthesized and live bass lines created a relaxed yet punchy feel. There was a great sense of space with his production that was unrivalled at the time. The drum programming of his had evovled so there was space between the kick and the snare until the 4th bar,where they would then meet up. Yet no bar was ever the same.
Below are 10 tracks that helped define the Timbaland Sound from 1996 through 1998:
Aaliyah: Are You That Somebody (arguably his most significant track: note the laughing baby)
Ginuwine: Pony (The Moog bass line>>>>)
Missy Elliott: The Rain (that Moog just hits you, great sample)
Playa: All The Way (laughing babies/ altered voices and guitar riffs)
Destinys Child: Get On The Bus (gorrila grunts, bird whistles and fantastic use of strings)
Jay-Z: Jigga What, Jigga Who (incorporates elements of uk garage)
Ginuwine: Keep It Real (I believe it was jacked by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for this. They’re the same guys who took credit for Janet Jackson’s Got Til It’s gone, which was really produced by the late J-Dilla aka Jay Dee.)
Missy Elliott: Beep Me 911 (the sampled voices again!)
Twista: Who Am I (look out for that spaceship/hospital sound that comes around the hook)
Aaliyah: One In A Millon (No woman can resist this beat. I promise you this)