Born Tim Mosely in Virginia
Timbaland is one of an emerging breed of superstar commercial hip-hop producers, along with groups like the Neptunes and Dr. Dre (plus assistants). He has made occasional albums of his own (i.e., with 'guest' rappers) but since the 2001 album Indecent Proposal (with Magoo) has worked largely on producing and consulting on other artists' records.
As such he boasts a large discography, providing beats for a plethora of famous R & B and hip-hop vocalists, such as Ginuwine, Method Man, Missy Elliott (4 albums' worth), Da Brat, Jay-Z, Ludacris (Roll Out), Aaliyah, and Eminem.
His most recent high-profile work, at the time of writing includes producing/executive producing Missy's album Under Construction, and helping out on production, mixing and vocals for amateur beatboxer, Justin Timberlake. He is also known to release popular mainstream remixes, such as for Nelly Furtado's Turn off the Light (2001).
Like Dr. Dre, Timbaland did recently hit a patch when everyone and their brother suddenly seemed to be ripping off his beats. For Dre, this was due to the lasting effect of tunes like Straight Outta Compton, combined with Eminem's meteoric rise; creating a sound that clearly owes much to sampling and a Californian P-Funk heritage. By contrast, Timbaland stakes a claim to the border area between R & B and hip-hop. His work is characterized by sample-free, hyper-produced tunes, over staccato rhythms which are as well sung to as rapped upon.
A classic example of this genre-bending attitude is Missy's massive Get Ur Freak On (2001), which adopts a sitar sound over a syncopated Timberland-trademark riff on bongos. Choruses are catchy and melodic, without becoming over-repetitive or mushy. The sparse, but clever instrumentation is radio-friendly and catches the ear as different - at least until the third or fourth time you hear the Timbaland treatment.
Despite all of Timbaland's success and skill, then, his influence has also spawned genre pieces that only pretend to be hip-hop. As in the mainstream of pop, producer-power seems to be suppressing or overshadowing the originality and vigour of the musicians, and specifically the vocalists. Timbaland's more mainstream R & B excursions aren't nearly as compelling as his work with Missy. There are a lot of glossy, borderline R & B / rap records being produced now, not just by Mr. Mosely, and more and more of them just have by-the-numbers hooks and choruses. Whiny white guys, Nelly and Ginuwine don't sustain any lyrical impact. They aren't hip-hop. Mixing rap with overproduced rock, or rap with overproduced crooning, has itself become a star producer's formula. No longer do Timbaland's beats stand out as sick in and of themselves.