Timbaland is one busy dude. His upcoming Shock Value album features collaborations with a veritable who’s-who of the record industry (Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Fall Out Boy, Missy Elliott, etc.) and his syncopated production work will soon be heard on albums by Björk and Coldplay.
And all of this is really nothing new. For more than a decade now, he’s produced ear-catching, ultra-distinctive hits for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Ginuwine, Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Jay-Z and Nelly Furtado, to name just a half-dozen. In fact, while trying to compile a list of all of Tim’s hits, one starts to think that it’s entirely plausible he’s worked with every single artist who’s ever released an album … ever.
We’ll just call him the music business equivalent of Kevin Bacon, the guy so tenuously connected to every celebrity that kids in college invented a drinking game in his honor. And in order to test that hypothesis, I e-mailed my colleagues at MTV News, and asked them to submit the names of anyone who’s ever recorded a note of music, to see if they could be linked to Timbaland in six steps or less.
It wasn’t exactly the most scientific of studies. It doesn’t strictly adhere to the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” formula, and it didn’t always work out (truly, Mel Tormé and Tim cannot be linked). But here are some of the highlights of Six Degrees of Timbaland.
Talking Heads: David Byrne » Brian Eno » Coldplay » Timbaland
An easy one to start with. Former Heads frontman Byrne made My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with Eno, who’s producing the upcoming Coldplay album, which Timbaland is also working on.
Buddy Holly: Weezer » Rick Rubin » Jay-Z » Timbaland
“Buddy Holly” was the name of Weezer’s 1994 breakout single. Weez’s last album, Make Believe, was produced by Rubin, who worked on Jay’s Black Album, and Jay appears on “Lobster & Scrimp,” from Timbaland’s 1998 ultra long-player, Tim’s Bio.
Alanis Morissette: Glen Ballard » Michael Jackson » R. Kelly » Aaliyah » Timbaland
Morissette’s smash Jagged Little Pill was produced by Ballard, who co-wrote Jackson’s hit “Man in the Mirror” and played keyboards on his Bad album. Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” was written and produced by Kelly, who worked on Aaliyah’s Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number, and Tim and Aaliyah worked together on two albums.
Patti Smith: Bruce Springsteen » Chaka Khan » Kanye West » Fall Out Boy » Timbaland
Smith’s 1978 hit “Because the Night” was co-written by Springsteen, who appears on the 1980 benefit album No Nukes alongside Khan, who performed at the 2004 VMAs with West, who recently remixed FOB’s “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race.” FOB, of course, appear on Shock Value.
David Hasselhoff: “Knight Rider” » Busta Rhymes » Wyclef » Timbaland
I could go the easy route and just mention that Tim and Magoo’s “Clock Strikes” remix samples the “Knight Rider” theme outright, but here’s one for style points: The ’Hoff appeared for five seasons on “Knight Rider,” and Rhymes’ “Fire It Up” samples the show’s theme. Rhymes appeared in the 2004 flick “Full Clip,” which is narrated by ’Clef, who worked with Tim on the song “War Stories.”
William Shatner: Ben Folds » DJ Swamp » Beck » Timbaland
Big Bill’s vocals were used to hilarious effect on the track “In Love,” from Folds’ 1998 one-off Fear of Pop, Vol. 1 album. Folds’ 2001 solo effort, Rockin’ the Suburbs, featured beats provided by Swamp, who was Beck’s touring DJ during the Odelay years (perhaps they met on Beck’s 1998 tour, for which Folds was an opening act). Beck and Timbaland collaborated on a cover of David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” for the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack.
A Flock of Seagulls: Bowling for Soup » Bryan Adams » Melanie C. » Melanie B. » Timbaland
The Flock’s biggest (OK, only) hit, “I Ran (So Far Away)” was covered by BFS, who also covered Adams’ “Summer of ’69.” In ’99, Adams recorded “When You’re Gone” with Mel C., who was, of course, in the Spice Girls with Mel B., who worked with Tim on a cover of Cameo’s “Word Up.”
Bruce Willis: Booker T. Jones » Willie Nelson » Rick Rubin » Jay-Z » Timbaland
Willis’ 1987 album The Return of Bruno featured Jones on the Hammond organ. Jones produced Nelson’s 1978 album Stardust. Rubin produced and mixed Nelson and Johnny Cash’s VH1 Storytellers record, and the Rubin/Jay/Timbaland connection has already been established above.
Liberace: Dr. Dre » Timbaland
The Gilded One was name-checked on 2Pac’s 1995 collab with Dre, “California Love” (Dre’s verse includes the lines, “Diamonds shinin’, lookin’ like I robbed Liberace”). Dre appears on Shock Value.
Hulk Hogan: The Rock » Wyclef » Timbaland
The Hulkster took on the Rock at Wrestlemania 18 in Toronto. The Rock sang (?) the hook on Wyclef’s single “It Doesn’t Matter.” And, once again, ’Clef and Timbaland worked together on “War Stories.”
The Fall’s Mark E. Smith: Elastica’s Justine Frischmann » M.I.A. » Timbaland
Mr. Smith provided guest vocals on Elastica’s second album, The Menace. Elastica frontwoman Frischmann co-wrote several M.I.A. demos (and one song on M.I.A.’s Arular); M.I.A. and Timbaland recorded a song last year called “Come Around” (which, for some reason, is available only on overseas editions of Shock Value), and both appear on Missy Elliott’s 2005 LP, The Cookbook.
Radiohead: Nigel Godrich » Beck » Timbaland
Godrich has produced every Radiohead album since 1995’s The Bends. He’s also done a pair of albums with Beck, who, as already noted, has recorded with Timbaland.
Guns N’ Roses: Josh Freese » Devo » Tweet » Timbaland
Sort of a cheap one here, as Freese has played drums for just about everyone, including GN’R and Devo. The latter was sampled in Tweet’s “Oops (Oh My)” (it’s the guitar hook from “Girl U Want,” if you wanna get picky), which was produced by — you guessed it — Timbaland.
Modest Mouse: Phil Ek » Calvin Johnson » Beck » Timbaland
Seemingly unlinkable upon first glance … it turns out MM’s watershed The Lonesome Crowded West album was engineered by Ek, who played in Johnson’s Halo Benders project. Johnson also sang on Beck’s One Foot in the Grave record. And, again, Beck and Tim have a history.
Muhammad Ali: Ween 12 Golden Country Greats » Russ Hicks » Willie Nelson » Rick Rubin » Jay-Z » Timbaland
Ali’s famous rant on George Foreman, following their 1974 Rumble in the Jungle, is sampled on Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats (which features only 10 songs, BTW) as is the pedal steel playing of Hicks, one of Nashville’s greatest session men. Hicks played with Willie Nelson, and from there, you know the rest.
The Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew: Mike Ditka » Ricky Williams » Master P » 50 Cent » Timbaland
OK, try to follow this one. The Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew (they of “Super Bowl Shuffle” fame — watch them in action right here!) were coached by Ditka, who, in 1999, when coaching the New Orleans Saints, famously traded all of the team’s draft picks to land Williams, who was represented by P’s No Limit Sports management company. P was put on blast by 50 in his song “How to Rob,” and 50 appears on Shock Value.
Bob & Doug McKenzie: Geddy Lee » Pavement » Jacques Lu Cont » Cornershop » She Wants Revenge » Timbaland
We could’ve just linked Pavement » Nigel Godrich » Beck, but that seemed a bit boring. So, here’s a much more tenuous set of links. Bob & Doug McKenzie’s totally excellent 1982 party album, The Great White North, features a cameo by Lee on the track “Take Off.” The Rush frontman was famously namechecked on Pavement’s “Stereo” (“What about the voice of Geddy Lee/ How did it get so high/ I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy?”). Lu Cont — a.k.a. Stuart Price, who produced much of Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor — remixed tracks for both Pavement and Cornershop, whose 1997 album When I Was Born for the 7th Time featured rapping (!) from a pre-She Wants Revenge Justin Warfield. And She Wants Revenge, of course, appear on Shock Value.
Minor Threat: Ian MacKaye » Al Jourgensen » Nine Inch Nails » Aaliyah » Timbaland
MacKaye, frontman for seminal punk act Minor Threat, also sang in Pailhead, a short-lived side project of Ministry’s Jourgensen, who collaborated with NIN’s Trent Reznor on a cover of Queen’s “Get Down, Make Love.” Reznor was tapped to produce a song on what would become Aaliyah’s third (and final) album, but scheduling problems forced the collaboration to be shelved. Timbaland ultimately ended up producing the record.
Kevin Bacon: Sean Hayes » Britney Spears » Justin Timberlake » Timbaland
… And it all comes full circle. Bacon guested on a memorable episode of NBC’s “Will & Grace,” where Hayes (Jack) was his stalker. Spears also appeared on “W&G,” and once upon a time dated Timberlake, who, as much of the record-buying public is obviously aware, has logged plenty of studio time with Timbaland over the past few years.