So the ubiquitous producer Timbaland has a new solo album, featuring a single with guest stars Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. In the 2 reviews I was hit with this morning, one word sticks out regarding the purported genius of Timbaland, a word that seems to get associated with the key role that any hip-hop producer plays: beats.
Judging by the press I’ve read regarding Timbaland, I take it this guy had developed some fantastic beats for his clients. Of course hip-hop being a dance-oriented music, there’s no reason not to assume that the popularity of his productions must be tied to the effectiveness of the rhythmic bed he sets for artists to do whatever it is they do over, but man, all this talk of beats connotes true innovation! I thought I’d check it out.
YouTube has a whole page dedicated to Timbaland. Pretty cool, huh? Check out what Timba (can I call him that?) has to say:
“My mission is to blow up the boundaries and tear down the limits,” says Timbaland. “I’m taking my music outside of the box. I’m not getting away from what I’m known for; I’m just going to a place where it’s all about the music, not about the labels on the music. That’s why I call it Shock Value–from the artists to the production, it will shock the system.”
Now check out a quote from a corporate leader about a recent business acquisition:
“We’re excited to add a leader in the key pharmaceutical communication area of strategic publication planning to our portfolio of innovative, client focused, business units,” said Bull Malarky, Group President of M.A.N. Industries. “New Acquisition’s focus on combining the highest editorial quality, exceptional service and scientific integrity fits seamlessly with our overall growth philosophy.”
Now let’s check into to some of Timba’s beats!
Here are his beats for Justin’s megaphenomenal “SexyBack” single.
And don’t forget he laid down the heavy, ground-breaking beats on many of Missy Elliott‘s hits, including “The Rain”.
Last year he got Aussie fish-out-of-water Nelly Furtado to drop the hippie-folk-singer routine and sex it up real good. No need to sample any of those beats just now, but trust me: they’re real good.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing particularly lacking in these beats; in fact, much of his work is pretty cool, pretty catchy – and I say this as one with little interest in the hip-hop genre. But is there a drummer in the house?
What exactly does the hip-hop producer-as-beat-maker do? From where does he or she get these beats? Do hip-hop songs really start with the producer rolling out a variety of pre-made beats to see what suits the artist who will rap or sing over them? Does it matter that the beats are canned, sampled, or whatever? Is there an actual drummer in the process? I have a hundred questions, many of them ignorant, I’m sure. But they’re honest. How about you? What do you think of Timbaland and his beats? Do they stack up with innovative beats of the likes of James Brown, Hugo Burnham, whoever it is who plays on The Flowers of Romance album? (Hey, I’m in my Easter best – forgive me for not recalling the most likely uncredited drummer’s name right now.)
I look forward to your responses.