Timbaland (& Magoo)
Reviewed on this page:
Welcome To Our World - Tim's Bio - Indecent Proposal -
Under Construction Part II - Timbaland Presents Shock Value
Hip hop/R&B production mastermind Timbaland is the anchor of the Virginia Beach-based Superfriends clique, which also includes
singers Aaliyah and Ginuwine, rappers Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and Magoo, and vocal group Playa.
Timbaland's technique is based on insidious keyboard hooks, supertight kick drum and snare, and unpredictable syncopation:
he avoids the endless repetition that plagues hip hop, creating a mood that's laid-back, but with an edge. His solo and co-led releases are not usually his best work, partly because he insists on rapping instead of staying at
the controls (see Jermaine Dupri) and partly because his cohort Magoo is squeaky and annoying, but there are always at least a couple of gems to be found.
Welcome To Our World (Timbaland & Magoo: 1997)
On the best tracks - "Luv 2 Luv U," "Peepin' My Style," "Up Jumps Da' Boogie" - you may not notice the rapping.
Which is a good thing, because Timbaland is an incredibly bad rapper, lacking presence
(most of his vocals are heavily filtered, as if he were talking through a phone) and unable to
construct a coherent lyric (sample "rhyme": "Got to keep it radio friendly/So everyone in America
can hear me"). His egomaniacal ranting ("I don't even have to rap, I can just talk, and you'll
still buy it") ruins the opening "Beep Beep" despite its luscious, continually shifting
groove. Magoo projects a little more personality ("Clock Strikes"), but his whiny schoolboy
voice is grating, particularly when he's indulging in clichéd boasting about his sexual
performance - which is often. Fine guest shots by Missy ("Up Jumps Da' Boogie") and Ginuwine
("Joy") just demonstrate how inferior the headliners are; Aaliyah brings terrific, soulful belting
to her feature, "Man Undercover." This disc amply displays Timbaland's talents and shortcomings,
and the former outweigh the latter. Just know what you're getting into. (DBW)
Tim's Bio (Timbaland: 1998)
Fortunately, Timbaland mostly sticks to production this time around, leaving rapping and singing duties to his Superfriends,
a couple of guest artists (Nas and Jay-Z spout their respective clichés on "To My" and
"Lobster & Scrimp") and a bunch of new discoveries (rappers Mad Skillz and Yoshamine).
Of the new rappers, Twista has the fastest, sharpest delivery ("Who Am I"); Ludicris is the dullest ("Fat Rabbit"), though he rapidly
became a star in his own right.
Former backup singer Kelly Price has three-quarters of the roughness of Mary J. Blige
and maybe half the conviction ("Talking On The Phone"); Virginia Williams sings with a nasal quality pleasantly recalling Patti LaBelle.
The backing tracks are solid, with the usual precisely syncopated electronic percussion topped by nice touches even on the lesser tracks
(piano trills on "To My," ululating keyboards on Babe Blue's feature "What Cha Know About This").
Missy and Aaliyah's lustful "Johnny Blaze" is a standout, and
Timbaland even gets away with remaking two TV themes, Spiderman ("Here We Come," with a funky bass line) and I Dream Of
Jeannie ("Wit' Yo' Bad Self").
This wasn't a big seller, but it's a good introduction to Timbaland's skills, and you can find it real cheap.
In 2000, Timbaland oversaw the Romeo Must Die soundtrack.
Indecent Proposal (Timbaland & Magoo: 2001)
Timbaland shelved his signature sounds (aside from a couple of throwbacks like "Indian Carpet"), and instead there's a lot of slow Southern
Bounce, some creative and cathartic ("Serious," featuring protege Petey Pablo), some dry and dull
("People Like Myself"). He also innovates with some synth experiments (the sumptuous slow grind "Love Me," sung by Tweet) and an odd if
unsatisfying ballad/dance hybrid ("I Am Music" featuring Aaliyah and Static).
Unfortunately, there's a suprising number of dull loop-based tracks ("It's Your Night," "Beat Club" - both featuring Sin), and Magoo's as
annoying and simpleminded as ever ("Baby Bubba," based on a Funkadelic sample);
Timbaland's raps have improved a bit but are still nothing to brag about ("All Y'All").
Other guests include Jay-Z ("Party People"), Ludacris ("Considerate Brotha"), Twista, Fat Man Scoop and DJ S&S.
This record notwithstanding, Timbaland had a pretty successful 2001, producing big hits for Bubba Sparxxx and Pablo, not to mention Elliott and Aaliyah.
Under Construction Part II (Timbaland & Magoo: 2003)
Not only have fame and fortune not made Timbaland happy, they seem to have positively bummed him out: he sounds depressed
and dour throughout, many of the lyrics deal with his negative mental state ("Hold On" with Wyclef Jean; "Insane"), and even when he's bragging
he sounds bored with himself ("Don't Make Me Take It There"). The music matches the mood: midtempo dirges with heavy, noisy
synth. But it just sounds ugly instead of cathartic, because the backing tracks are so dull:
the melodies are rudimentary ("Naughty Eye") and the only new production idea is looping Indian percussion
("Indian Flute," one of several tracks featuring vocals from Raje Shwari), which gets old fast.
Curiously enough, the song he didn't produce, Heavy D's insipid ballad "I Got Luv 4 Ya," is even weaker than the rest.
There are two catchy songs: the relatively bouncy "Can We Do It Again," and the unsettling ballad "N 2 The Music," sung by
Brandy copying Aaliyah's laid-back style.
Other guests include Missy ("Cop That Shit"), Sparxxx ("Shenanigans"), Beenie Man and Candice "Gg" Nelson, which brings up
a question: what the hell happened to former proteges Tweet and Petey Pablo?
Have they gone the way of Nicole Wray and Mocha?
Timbaland Presents Shock Value (2007)
Not much value, and less shock.
After a few years in the wilderness, Timbaland returned to the forefront of hitmaking in 2006, hooking up huge records for Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and untold others. His mid-00s production style leaves me cold, though, relying too heavily on buzzing bass synths playing slow repetitive vamps (often employing a minor second), boring drum loops, and tired sexual catchphrases. There's plenty of that here, along with a bottomless guest list: Timberlake and Furtado ("Give It To Me," the first single), 50 Cent ("Come And Get Me"), Fall Out Boy (the pointlessly potty-mouthed "One And Only"), Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger ("Scream"). Then there are Timbaland's current proteges - Keri Hilson and D.O.E. ("Way I Are," sampling "Push It") - and old stalwarts: Elliott ("Bounce"), Magoo ("Board Meeting"). It's like Timbaland's answer to We Are The World, but even less focused. He's focused on pulling in stars, not on giving them anything interesting to do: Elton John's voice and melodicism are ignored as he's instructed to play pseudo-Romantic piano that could just as easily have been performed by Richard Clayderman ("Two-Man Show"). There's not much to like here, but the rocker "Throw It On Me," with The Hives, demonstrates the off-kilter sensibility and restlessness that made Timbaland worth hearing in the first place.