By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Timbaland and Magoo
Welcome to Our World
IT'S BEEN A decade or so since Stetsasonic's Daddy-O rapped that sampling is "just a tactic, a portion of my method," in defense of hip hop's well-cultivated ethic of creative appropriation. Now Puff Daddy's reverent mumbling over the Police's "Every Breath You Take" has convinced many (my editor included) that "big money" hip hop is in its artistic death throes, thanks mostly to the mercenary nature of sample acquisition. Still, Puffy's success obscures a more general (and more interesting) trend in hip-hop production away from hit-plundering and toward synth-programming and the in-studio sampling of live instruments. This year the former tactic and latter feel have been ingeniously codified by the varied slabs of hip-hop giddiness cut by Virginia-based producer Tim "Timbaland" Mosley.
Like any important new twist in the hip-hop equation, Tim's shtick took a minute of getting used to: The voice-synth figure on Ginuwine's '96 smash hit, "Pony," sounded downright cartoonish until the stop-start flow of the chorus meshed with electro-spasms of the beat to make perfect pop sense. Timbaland is among the few major American producers to absorb the herky-jerky rhythms of London drum'n'bass, as well as the dark soundscapes of trip hop (among his rare samples: Portishead). The resulting fidgety beats and pillows of atmosphere gave MC/singer/songwriter/producer Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott room to stretch out and spin the ragga-inspired spider webs of dirty lyrics and disses on her endlessly spinable Supa Dupa Fly. Now Timbaland and longtime partner, rapper Magoo, have teamed up for a follow-up effort that includes contributions from Elliott and recurrent Timbaland collaborators Ginuwine, Aaliyah, and Playa.
The beats on Welcome to Our World are even quirkier and more playful than on Missy's platter, and the rap/R&B couplings evince a jumpy, characteristically Southern freshness--possibly due to the proximity of Tim's Virginia headquarters to the D.C. go-go and Miami bass scenes. The hooky ganja-soul of "Smoke In Da' Air" and the NC-17 freestyle of the hit "Up Jumps Da' Boogie" best capture the album's after-hours-party feel. Magoo's elfin toasting recalls Q-Tip in pitch and timbre, if not flow, and provides a welcome counter-point to Timbaland's tenor mic turns, which here, as on Elliott's album, sound like they reached the studio via speaker-phone. The tele-rapping works well enough. On the undeniable "Luv 2 Luv U" the producer growls that he'll have you "callin' him master... saying, 'Tim, do it faster/and faster'" until he comes off sounding like a phone-sexy Charlie from Charlie's Angels, running the show from some offshore home office. But the device wears thin over 74 minutes, forcing you to notice that Tim and Magoo, like many of their less-talented competitors, have absolutely nothing to say.
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