If you think about hip-hop production in the 2000s, the first name that comes to mind has got to be Timbaland. He was one of the first mainstream producers to step out from behind the desk, making his presence and voice felt on the track, and to say that his beats shaped the way pop music has evolved in the past 10 years is an understatement.
At a very young age, Timothy Zachary Mosley began making hip-hop beats on a Casio keyboard in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia. He forged an early musical bond with his cohorts in the S.B.I. (Surrounded By Idiots) production crew, which happened to include Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes. Timbaland also went to high school with Terrence and Gene Thorton, who would go on to form the rap group Clipse. It’s safe to say that Virginia was a hotbed for aspiring hip-hop artists in the late 80s and 90s.
Timbaland’s relationship with Missy Elliot began at an early stage of both of their careers, when Missy was a member of the R&B girl-group Sista. When Sista got signed, Timbaland and long-time production collaborator Magoo relocated to New York City on Missy’s invitation. It was here that Timbaland began making strides as a producer, gaining mainstream recognition for his work with R&B artist Ginuine. His work on Aaliyah’s sophomoric album One In A Million would lead to a fulfilling, though short-lived creative bond, cut short by Aaliyah’s untimely death in 2001.
When Missy Elliot’s profile rose in the mid 2000s, so did Timbaland’s. With production credits on “Work It,” “Get Ur Freak On,” and “One Minute Man,” under his belt, Timbaland was quickly becoming one of the most sought-after producers in hip-hop. Timbaland’s sound was special, because in a climate where most hip-hop productions were very grimy and sample-based, his were clean, electronic, and rarely relied on samples. What’s special about Timbaland’s production style, is that he’s able to inject feeling and character into the electronic instruments he utilizes.
In 2006, Timbo worked extensively with artists like Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, allowing his unprecedented signature sound to transition into the pop realm. This is when Timbaland began inserting his own voice into his productions, introducing his musical influence to a brand new audience. His work with Justin Timberlake dominated radio waves, and edified the way pop music sounds today. For this Friday Mixtape, let’s check out some of Timbaland’s best beats.