Timbaland Presents Shock Value

Posted April 9, 2007
Tags: Timbaland,

Once upon a time there was an young man named DJ Timmy Tim who dreamed of musical stardom....

Timbaland Presents Shock Value Album Review

Once upon a time there was an young man named DJ Timmy Tim who dreamed of musical stardom. Nearly twenty years and one name change later, Timbaland is the biggest producer in hip-hop. His trademark mix of heavily syncopated rhythms, eclectic influences, and strange samples are instantly recognizable. Despite all his success, the dream of young Timmy Tim has not completely come true; Timbaland is still not a true star. Sure he’s recognizable, but his music is more famous than he is. Call it the curse of the producer; even the biggest beat-maker in the game does his work behind the scenes, while the Justin Timberlake’s of the world are mobbed by legions of adoring fans.

Shock Value is Timberland’s attempt to take back center stage by coming out from behind the mixing boards to take hold of the mic. Unfortunately for Timbaland his skills as an MC are nowhere near his abilities as a producer. On the track Come and Get Me Timbo lays down a decent flow, but Tim is merely an average MC in contrast to the violently confident verses of track mates 50 Cent and Tony Yayo. Oh Timbaland is another example of his fatal flaw. The beat is typically excellent Timbaland fare with a funk driven bass line and rapidly changing rhythms, but Timbo’s monotone lyrics fall short of memorable.

When Timbo spreads lyrical responsibility around the results are stunning. Built around an inhale/exhale sample and a growling bass line, Bounce might just be the best beat of the year, maybe even better than Polow Da Don’s Throw Some D’s. Fellow rapper-producer Dr. Dre contributes solid vocals, and then Missy throws down a wild style verse that absolutely kills. This is what Timbaland needs to complete his vision, a dynamic MC like Elliott who can match his off-kilter music. Oh, and JT sings a believably dirty chorus; one of Timbo’s hidden talents is conferring instant credibility on anyone he produces, even when they’re an ex-N’Sync member. Ironiclly, he’s been unable to earn respect for himself as an MC.

Timbaland’s constantly experimenting with new sources, and Shock Value is worth picking up solely for the thrill of listening to Tim build a funk beat around traditional Indian singing on Bombay, or the way he seamlessly mixes hip-hop and English pop on Time. The most daring track on Shock Value is One and Only, a collaboration with emo-rockers Fall Out Boy that expertly blends the bands full on rock set-up and Timbo’s electronic percussion. It’s hard to imagine another producer in hip-hop taking this kind of musical risk, let alone pulling it off. No risk, no reward, and Shock Value handsomely rewards even the most cynical listener.

For a producer capable of astounding creativity Timbaland can occasionally become formulaic. It appears he learned a valuable lesson from Nelly Furtado’s Promiscuous; trade verses with a female singer over a club friendly dance beat and watch the money roll in. There are four tracks on the album that follow that recipe for success exactly: Fantasy, Way I Are, Scream, and Miscommunication, with most of them featuring Keri Hilson as the female love interest. The tracks are all quality, but they feel disappointingly safe after the musical skydiving that is the rest of the album.

Timbaland may never get the respect he craves as a vocalist, but that’s the nature of hip-hop, the MC always takes the spotlight from the DJ. He may just have to settle for going down as one of the best of all time. After all, a comatose Timbaland could write better beats than 90 percent of the industries’ producers, and Shock Value finds Timbo wide awake. If the goal of Shock Value was to prove he doesn’t have any real competition for the “best producer alive” title, mission accomplished.

DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins

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Posted April 9, 2007
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