Born Tim Mosley on March 10, 1971, in Norfolk, VA. Addresses: Record company--Virgin Records, 304 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10010.

Hip-hop and R&B producer Timbaland, wrote music critic Touré in Rolling Stone, was "among the few modern sound makers who have a signature sound, not a formula." Timbaland made his name crafting a string of multiplatinum hits for superstar artists, most notably for Jay-Z, Ginuwine, the late Aaliyah, and childhood friend Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot. Among his biggest singles are Ginuwine's "Pony," Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'," and Aaliyah's "One in a Million." Timbaland scored his own top ten hit in 1997, "Up Jumps Da Boogie," with longtime friend Magoo.

Norfolk, Virginia, native Timbaland was born Tim Mosley on March 10, 1971. He grew up sharing his interest in music with neighborhood friends and fellow future hip-hop stars Missy Elliot and Magoo. As a teen, Timbaland practiced his DJ and beatboxing skills. In the early 1990s when Elliot, then a member of the group Sista, was discovered by DeVante Swing of Jodeci, she asked Timbaland to create the music for the group's demo tape. At age 19, under Swing's tutelage, Timbaland learned to use studio equipment, spending days at time honing his new skills. "The early days were tough but invaluable," Timbaland remembered in his online biography found at the Timbaland and Magoo official website. "DeVante was hard on me and that made me really hard on myself." The fledgling producer formed Da Bassment crew, a group that included Elliot, Magoo, Playa, and Ginuwine. One by one, each artist struck out and found his own recording deal. Timbaland landed at the Blackground record label with two deals--one as a solo act, the other as half of the rap duo Timbaland and Magoo.

The producer's singular style was first evident on Aaliyah's 1996 hit ballad, "One in a Million," which "showcased many of Timbaland's trademark rhythmic tricks: syncopated kick drum patterns stuttering in triple-time bursts, stop-start grooves full of disconcerting but tense funky hesitations," wrote music critic Simon Reynolds in the New York Times. "As with earlier rhythmic innovations, Timbaland's twitchy beats practically enforce a new kind of dancing, convulsive yet geometrically precise," Reynolds continued.

Longtime friends Timbaland and Magoo released their first album together, Welcome to Our World, in 1997. The album achieved platinum status for record sales, and boasted a hit single, "Up Jumps Da Boogie," which featured Elliot and Aaliyah and reached number 12 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Timbaland and Magoo lent their skills to Elliot's debut solo release, Supa Dupa Fly in 1997. With Supa Dupa Fly, the trio had "established the South as a hip-hop mecca to rival New York and Los Angeles," according Billboard.

Timbaland was already a familiar name in the music world by the time he released his own solo debut in 1998, titled Tim's Bio: From the Motion Picture: Life From Da Bassment. The album is steeped in comic-book culture, with references to Spider Man, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern--a "trend that allows rappers to indulge in violent fantasies that have no connection to reality," according to critic David Browne in Entertainment Weekly. Tim's Bio illustrated that Timbaland "prefers a sensuous flow (adding staccato beats to eliminate all traces of wimpiness)," Browne continued, "and he knows the value of letting arrangements breathe."

The release garnered praise from Entertainment Weekly's Bob Brunner, who called Timbaland "hip- hop's most inventive producer," and described the album's first single, "Here We Come," as "infectious." Rolling Stone critic Touré called the work "inconsistent." While the record boasted "club bangers" like "Lobster and Scrimp" and "Talkin' on the Phone," Touré wrote, songs like "Here We Come" and "Wit' Yo Bad Self," built on the theme songs to Spider Man and I Dream of Jeannie, respectively, were novel, their lyrics were "silly." Tim's Bio, Brunner wrote, "promises to push him from the studio and into the spotlight." But Timbaland did not seem entirely comfortable with that prospect, and told Brunner, "The attention is cool, but I like it how it is."

By the late 1990s, Timbaland was a high-paid producer for the biggest names in rap, including Nas, Snoop Dogg, and Jay-Z, for whom he earned top dollar to lend his stamp to the occasional hit. What those artists paid dearly for was Timbaland's almost surefire golden touch. The producer brought to the table an uncanny knack for producing commercially successful music--the majority of his production, remixing, and writing credits are featured on double-platinum-selling singles and albums. "I'm a great producer," Timbaland boasted in Rolling Stone in 2001, "so people need me more than I need them." Though he can come off as cocky at times, Timbaland also appreciated the value of his success, and the importance of sustaining it. "I look at it like this: I've got a job, and I just don't want to get laid off," he told Billboard.

One of the first hip-hop producers to create tracks from original beats, rather than depending on samples, Timbaland created an undoubtedly unique sound. His beats bounce, with something of a Southern feel, and boast a "shuddering sense of rhythm," according to All Music Guide online. He often uses his own, deep voice, rapping subtly behind tracks, and injects whimsical sounds, like a cooing baby or whinnying horse. Timbaland's style influenced a new generation of producers--scores of hip-hop hits were made to echo the trademark Timbaland sound. "The real testament to" Timbaland's success, wrote Simon Reynolds in the New York Times, was his "pervasive influence ... on other R&B artists, from TLC to Blackstreet. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Timbaland should be, Reynolds continued, "feeling pretty good." "It's cool," Timbaland said of the flattery in Billboard, "but it's starting to get on my nerves."

Timbaland and Magoo's follow up to Welcome to Our World was a long time coming. Four years after their debut, they released Indecent Proposal. Work commenced on the project late in 2000, with Timbaland and Magoo hunkered down in a New York City recording studio. The result, wrote Billboard's Christopher Walsh after hearing some rough takes long before the album was finished, was "overwhelmingly powerful, complex, and unique music, encompassing a wide array of instrumentation and styles." Though the two were friends since childhood, Magoo told Billboard, "when I get in a studio I've got a different respect for him. He's a good director.... He makes me think a lot deeper than I would if I was just home writing." Timbaland earned a reputation for creating a creative atmosphere that other artists thrive in while recording, possibly because his own artistic sensibilities. In 2000 Timbaland was named the Top Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Producer in Billboard's year-end magazine, and closed out the year with nine singles on the charts.

In an effort to discover the next generation of stars, Timbaland signed a deal with Interscope Records to create the Beat Club record label, a new Interscope imprint. The label's first release was Dark Days, Bright Nights by Bubba Sparxxx, which was released in 2001 and produced by Timbaland. He also released and produced albums by Storm and Ms. Jade. "I look at all these producers out there, and I like them all," Timbaland told Billboard. "But I can take a rugrat and build him to Willy Wonka. I bring everybody out of the hole! That's what I do." Timbaland looked forward to releasing work by country-rock singer Shelby Norman and an Atlanta rock group. For his producer duties, Timbaland remained in demand, working on tracks for No Doubt and Limp Bizkit, hoping to one day work with acts like Björk, the Cranberries, and the heavy-metal group Metallica.

by Brenna Sanchez

Timbaland's Career

Worked with DeVante Swing of Jodeci, c. 1990; formed Da Bassment crew with Missy Elliot, Magoo, Playa, and Ginuwine; signed two deals with the Blackground record label; produced Aaliyah's hit ballad, "One in a Million," 1996; released Welcome to Our World and hit single "Up Jumps Da Boogie" with Magoo, 1997; produced Elliot's Supa Dupa Fly, 1997; released solo debut, Tim's Bio: From the Motion Picture: Life From Da Bassment, 1998; produced hit songs for Nas, Snoop Dogg, and Jay-Z; founded Interscope imprint label Beat Club, 2000; released Indecent Proposal with Magoo, 2001.

Timbaland's Awards

Billboard magazine, Top Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Producer, 2000.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 15 years ago

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over 16 years ago

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