Timbaland is arguably the most important producer of the last 20 years. He revolutionized hip-hop and R&B in the ’90s courtesy of classic collaborations with Missy Elliott and Aaliyah, and then did the same for pop in the ’00s by crafting chart-conquering albums like Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and Nelly Furtado’s Loose. When you throw in his success as an artist with monster hits like “Give It To Me” and “The Way I Are,” there’s no better man to navigate newcomers around the hurdles and pitfalls of the music industry — a task he relishes on Lifetime’s The Pop Game (airing Fridays at 10/11C).
I recently spoke with the pioneer about his role on the show (it’s his way of giving back) and new music. Tim will release his first project in eight years when the follow-up to Shock Value II drops later this year and the super producer is promising to change to face of music again. He’s tightlipped about the project, but says it will be full of new faces and, potentially, one UK superstar. After that, he’s rolling out the long-touted Opera Noir, which he describes as a franchise album. Find out more in our Q&A below.
What attracted you to The Pop Game? It’s something I always wanted to do. This is my way of just giving back to music. I love it. It’s not about ratings, it’s about the love of music. I really love my kids. I want to get other producers to do the same thing, to help out with generations to come. You know, that’s what we’re here for. I want to see those kids flourish and make great moves because they’re always going to remember the help that I gave them, you know?
Are the challenges facing new artists the same as when you started? The ’90s was the ’90s. That’s what we had to do. These kids don’t have to do that, but the difference is… that’s what we set up in the ’90s — for this time, for this era. Now, we have a job to do, to guide these kids to be the next future of music and then they have a responsibility, if the world is still here. They will remember what I’ve done and whether some star in ten or 15 years from now, there will be another group of kids doing the same thing and, you know, it goes on and goes on. The ’80s were the ’80s and the ’80s had less technology when it came to music. The ’90s had a little more and as it got to 2000, it started to get more extreme, and then as you see now, music is everywhere.
Are there any potential superstars on the show? All of them could be stars if they’re on right, you know what I’m saying? They’re learning about themselves. What I’m helping them to do is learn about themselves more than anything, learning about themselves as artists.
Is your new album going to be the same concept at Shock Value? Yeah, but its going to be a lot of new faces. I’m all about breaking out. I don’t like what I’ve already done. Of course, I have to research things, but I like to reinvent the wheel. So, yes, it’ll be a lot of different artists.
Can you mention anyone in particular? No. Just wait and see. It will all happen. If you notice, I never talk about who I’m working with or what I’m about to put out. I just like to put it out.
I heard that Zayn’s on the album? Since you heard, I’ll tell you. Yeah, I worked with Zayn. Just be on the lookout.
Why has there been an eight year gap between albums? Because you have to live life. You have to prep yourself. You’ve got to prep for right moment and for the right time. Timing is everything. You can’t just put out, just to be putting out. I’ve never been wanting to put out. My goals are my goals. So, this time, when I leave I probably won’t stop. I’ll probably keep going for three years straight… just nonstop.
When I stop… you know that was a goal that I set out, you know? Me and my team, we decided to take a break. This is what I’d like to be. I want to live in the shadows, meaning that I want to put out great music like Calvin Harris and The Chainsmokers. I just want to do it in a different way, like how Future put out two albums back to back. It would be a dream to see all Timbaland on iTunes, see every song on that front page… Timbaland, Timbaland, Timbaland, Timbaland. I like to do stuff that’s a challenge.
Are you still producing for other artists or just concentrating on your artist project? Oh yeah! Yeah! I’m telling you, it’s all going to come… it’s going to be like a whirlwind or like a tsunami. You know when I come, I come. Just like I came in 2007 and in 2013 with [The 20/20 Experience]. So, when I come, I come. We don’t play.
Speaking of that era… are you working on Justin Timberlake’s new album? You wait and see, buddy. Wait and see. Everything we do, is so top secret, you know. I’m not one to hype stuff up, you know. I just like to put it out. I don’t like to talk about it. you know, I just put it out. But just know that the storm is… let’s just say it’s overcast and it’s right above me. [Laughs] That means keep your ears on.
You’ve worked with all the greats. Who’s left? Just the new artists. The new millennials like Selena Gomez and The Chainsmokers … all the new people that are coming out. That’s who I’d like to work with, the newer generation.
What do you consider to be your best work? Nothing really stands out. I just get into it, you know, it’s the beat that I’m mainly interested in… I try to be different each time. That’s it. I don’t have a favorite. Aaliyah will always be the top because that was the start of my career. Of course, that’s like the the start of Timbaland movement.
Her music still sounds as fresh today as when it came out. Thank you. I’m glad that you like it like that.
Who is making the hottest beats today? Everybody is doing a good job, if you hear it. Everybody’s putting it out there and letting people be the judge of it. I love everything that going on. You know, there’s some I like better than others and there’s some I don’t like.
Can you talk about your Opera Noir project? That’s a separate project. That’s going to be the grand finale project.
Is it a concept album? It’s going to be a franchise album. When I say franchise… people will try to be a part of what I started. People will be like, “I want to do the same thing.”
It was an honor to talk to you. Thank you for talking to me.