Timbaland is one of the most innovative producers in the history of music with his ecclectic sounds and rhythms. A Grammy Award-winning record producer, rapper, songwriter, and record executive, Timbaland first made his name in the world of hip-hop and R&B. writing and producing hits with his friend Missy Elliott before branching off into pop productions. He has closely collaborated with Justin Timberlake, JAY-Z, Nelly Furtado, Ginuwine and Aaliyah among others.
Born Timothy Zachery Mosley on March 10, 1972 in Norfolk, Virginia, Tim was raised in Virginia Beach, where he would make high school connections with his rhyme partner Melvin “Magoo” Barcliff as well as brothers Terrence and Gene Thornton, who went on to become Pusha T and No Malice of the Clipse. Also, Tim’s cousin is fellow super-producer Pharrell Williams. Tim, Pharrell, and Magoo were in a group together called SBI (Surrounded By Idiots) and they created some demo tracks. While Pharrell would go on to work with producer Teddy Riley and become one half of The Neptunes production duo with Chad Hugo, Tim would connect with producer DeVante Swing of Jodeci after he heard Tim’s production on songs he made for Missy and her group Fayze, which was later renamed to Sista.
DeVante would give Tim the name Timbaland after the popular Timberland construction boots and made him a member of the Swing Mob and Da Bassment Crew, which also included Missy, as well as singers Ginuwine, Tweet and the group Playa. Tim did some co-production on Jodeci’s Diary of a Mad Band and The Show, the After Party, the Hotel albums, and he made his first appearance on their track “In the Meanwhile.” He co-produced the album 4 All the Sistas Around the World with DeVante for Missy’s group Sista but it was shelved and the Swing Mob dissolved.
Missy and Tim continued working together as a songwriter-production duo, making their mark on Aaliyah’s sophomore album One in a Million, which was released in August 1996 and included the number one R&B single “If Your Girl Only Knew.” Timbaland’s first fully produced album was released in October 1996 with Ginuwine’s debut Ginuwine…The Bachelor, featuring the Top 10 pop/number one R&B single “Pony.” Next on the production schedule was Missy’s debut album Supa Dupa Fly, which was released in July 1997 and featured the hit single “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).” Rolling Stone ranked the album #93 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in part due to Timbaland’s “avant-funk cosmic swamp beats.” Rolling Stone also featured Missy and Timbaland on their list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
Tim released his first album as part of the duo Timbaland & Magoo in November 1997 with the release of Welcome to Our World, which featured the singles “Up Jumps da Boogie” and “Luv 2 Luv U.” Tim released his debut solo album Tim’s Bio: From the Motion Picture – Life From Da Bassment in November 1998 but he continued to create hits for JAY-Z (“Big Pimpin'”), Total (“What About Us”), SWV (“Can We”), Ginuwine (“So Anxious”) and Aaliyah (“Are You That Somebody”) among others towards the end of the ‘90s.
Tim began the 2000s crafting another Aaliyah hit with the number one pop single “Try Again,” and he racked up more number one singles during the decade on the charts for R&B (Missy’s “Work It” and Tweet’s “Oops (Oh My)”), rap (Fabolous' “Make Me Better”) and dance (Madonna’s “4 Minutes” and “Miles Away”). Tim released two solo albums (2007’s Shock Value—which featured the number one pop singles “Apologize” with OneRepublic and “Give It To Me” with Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado—and 2009’s Shock Value II, which featured the number one R&B single “Say Something” with Drake). He also released two more albums with Magoo (2001’s Indecent Proposal and 2003’s Under Construction II). In 2001, he became a record exec with his Beat Club imprint that released projects from Bubba Sparxxx and Ms. Jade.
With 2002’s hit single “Cry Me a River,” Tim began a working relationship with Justin Timberlake and the duo has worked on each of JT’s subsequent albums as well as produced tracks for Madonna, Duran Duran, and JAY-Z. Tim also began a working relationship with singer Nelly Furtado after he established his Mosley Music Group label in 2006 with the release of Furtado’s debut album Loose, which featured the number one dance single “Maneater” as well as the number one pop singles “Say It Right” and “Promiscuous.”
In 2015, Timbaland provided production and served as the Executive Music Supervisor for the first two seasons of the FOX drama Empire. In March 2020, Timbaland and fellow rapper/producer Swizz Beatz established the Verzuz battle series for hip-hop and R&B artists to go hit-for-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. This production won a “Break the Internet” Webby Award in 2020 and the duo was featured on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2021.
Timbaland’s influence has been felt worldwide as his “skittish” beats incorporating noises from birds to babies caused future producers to think more outside the box. His production is also credited with being an influence on the UK garage and rave scene. He was honored by ASCAP as Songwriter of the Year in 2001, 2003 and 2008, he was named Producer of the Year by the BET Hip Hop Awards and Vibe Awards in 2007, he won three Grammy Awards for his work with Justin Timberlake and another as a songwriter on Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” among other awards.