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 Timbaland's rocking to a tune only he can hear ...

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 "Let me explain something to America: Money don't make you happy." ...

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— by Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway and Joseph Patel

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — The place with the most banging beats right now is not Atlanta, New York or even the city where Dr. Dre creates his magic, Los Angeles. It's little old Virginia — more specifically, the Hampton Roads area, which includes the cities of Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk and of course Virginia Beach.

Last year, Norfolk producer Nottz, who has steadily supplied the likes of 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Xzibit with hits for the past 10 years, hit paydirt again with tracks for Game and the blockbuster "That's That" by Snoop Dogg. Meanwhile, VA Beach's Nate "Danja" Hill arguably became the breakthrough producer of last year by being Timbaland's co-pilot on Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds and Nelly Furtado's Loose. Not to mention Danja solo-production turns for the aforementioned Snoop, Fantasia, DJ Khaled and fellow VA native Trey Songz.

But despite all the homegrown talent dotting the seven cities of Hampton Roads, no two men from VA stand out more than childhood friends and former bandmates Pharrell Williams (a.k.a. one half of the Neptunes) and Danja's mentor, Timbaland — a.k.a. Tim Mosely or, more appropriately for this December evening, Mr. All-to-Himself.

Timbaland is being real selfish right now. His Virginia Beach studio is filled with people and, from the look on his face, he's obviously up to something wonderful. His eyes are wide, lit up like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the top gift on his wish-list hand-delivered by St. Nick himself. He's bopping and mumbling to himself.

The only thing is, nobody else can hear what's he's hearing. He's got his headphones plugged into the mixing board and is keeping his latest creation all to himself.

Being in a room with one of the few producers in the modern era who has earned the tag "genius" — from fans, critics and people like Jay-Z, who've paid handsomely to work with him — is not an everyday thing for most people, so it's no wonder than the handful of folks that Timbo has invited to his studio to preview his new album, Timbaland Presents Shock Value, are frothing at the mouth to hear what's being created.

He'll share it with the world soon enough. But while Timbo is flirting with ideas, he likes to start off with the beat just bumping in headphones. His theory is, if it doesn't sound good in headphones, it's not worth listening to.

"Yeah, the reason why I call it Shock Value is like now, everybody is [calling] me 'Timbaland, the hip-hop producer,' " he says later that night of his upcoming LP, which finds him working with everyone from Lil' Wayne to Justin Timberlake, from Nelly Furtado to 50 Cent, from Jay-Z and Elton John to the Hives and Nickleback to ... well, you get the point. He's coming really diverse.

"No, I'm not a hip-hop producer," he insists. "I am a producer," he continues. "I'm not hip-hop, because Jay-Z is not just hip-hop. He wouldn't be [speaking] at the United Nations if he was just hip-hop. He wouldn't own a basketball team if he was just hip-hop. He is bigger than hip-hop. I'm bigger than hip-hop. I do everything. If they have a 'Titanic 2,' I can do Celine Dion. That's easy."

A few weeks later, Timbaland will be touring several cities with his good friend Timberlake — who appears with Nelly Furtado on Shock Value's first single, "Give It to Me" — and as part of the concert, Timbo actually has his own set, where he's less selfish, making a beat live in front of thousands of people (and yes, everyone can hear it).

Performing every night — he produces, sings, dances, raps and beatboxes — is just the latest step in the evolution of Tim Mosley.

It's all a long way from a decade and a half ago, when Timbo was a high schooler who called himself DJ Timmy Tim. He'd keep the local parties on fire with his turntables, but he always had aspirations of rocking the mic and making beats. Timbaland even had a band whose members included his MC/childhood friend Magoo and the Neptunes' Williams and Chad Hugo.

NEXT: 'Let me explain something to America: Money don't make you happy.'
Photo: MTV News

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