The 25 Greatest Timbaland Instrumentals Of All Time








In honor of Timbaland and his induction into the VHI Hip Hop Hall of Fame, Complex Magazine gave it's top 25 Timbaland tracks/Instrumentals of all time. They are: 




#25: Cee-Lo f/ Timbaland "I'll Be Around"










Released: 2004
In between Goodie acclaim and Gnarls stardom, Cee-Lo spent the first half of the past decade pursuing a solo career to mostly deaf ears. It wasn't fot for a lack of great records, though, as his sole Timbo collabo demonstrates. Tim brings Lo a brass-band bounce, and the chorus hints at both acts' gospel influence. As a rapper, Tim is easily out-styled by Cee-Lo's ridiculous flow, but compensates with a certain goofball charm.

#: Nelly Furtado "Say It Right" 


Released: 2006

Nelly Furtado tapped Timbaland and Danja for the bulk of production on 2006’s Loose, whose international Top 10 smash “Say It Right”


#24: SWV f/ Missy Elliott "Can We"














Released: 1997
The lead single from SWV's final album (and the Booty Call soundtrack!) embodied the changing of the guard in modern R&B. Out went the sample-based hip-hop-informed sound that made them stars, in came Tim's space funk. You can hear Mr. Mosley trying to lace them with a more traditional-sounding beat, but it's bursting at the seams, his ticks and twitches seeping out from behind the lead guitar.




















#23: Young Jeezy "3 A.M."









Released: 2006
By the middle of the ’00s, it seemed like Timbaland had all but put hip-hop behind him. His rap collaborations were infrequent and usually leaned towards the pop side of the spectrum. "3 AM" served as a reminder that he could still get down on the grimy side of things, playing in frequent Jeezy producer Shawty Redd's sandbox and blending his trademark twitchy programming with Atlanta's then-standard of darkened d-boy drama synths.

#22: Missy Elliott f/ Eve, Nas & Q-Tip "Hot Boyz (Remix)"








Released: 1999
For the most part, when Timbaland used samples they accounted for just a small element in a larger blueprint but Missy's "Hot Boyz" is entirely sample-driven, hinging on the stop-and-go chops of an unidentifiable string sample. Eve and Nas tear this down with ease, while Q-Tip just confuses with an surrealistically uncharacteristic verse about how much heat he holds and how he intends to "hit it ’til it's numbness."

#21: Ginuwine "What's So Different?"









Released: 1999
Ginuwine presents his theory on the transitive properties of cheating lovers: "If you cheated on him, you'll do it to me." Simple enough. Tim tempers this logical lament with a jittery bassline, harpsichords, and the roars of an enraged Godzilla. Which would seemingly make the nameless love interest...Rodan?




















#20: Aaliyah "We Need A Resolution"








Released: 2001
To say Aaliyah and Timbaland found a formula and ran with it would be an understatement. "Resolution," of clanging bottles and blame games, bears quite a few of structural similarities to both "Are You That Somebody" and "Try Again" before it, right down to the half-adlib half-rap Timbaland vocals. But the template was so close to perfect that you can hardly blame the duo for not deviating more.

#19: Fabolous f/ Ne-Yo "Make Me Better"








Released: 2007
Ne-yo and Fab's smash collaboration about collaboration. Tim interpolates the same eerie string sample that RZA used for Raekwon's "Rainy Dayz." It's his most restrained production; all the requisite Timbo-isms are absent. No skittering drums, no vocal samples, just bubbling kicks, claps, and strings. But it works.

#18: Bubba Sparxxx "Deliverance"

















Released: 2003
Though Bubba and Timbaland had already scored a minor hillbilly rap hit with "Ugly," it was Bubba's sophomore record Deliverance that found both artists presenting the most mature work of their career. Tim's heavily blues-influenced beats basically forced Bubba to grow up...or maybe it was the other way around.



















#17: The Game "Put You On The Game"







Released: 2005
Another infrequent Timbaland track that maintains a street vibe, "Put You On The Game" puts The Game onto spastic chipmunk chants and perilous G-Unit style pianos. And Timbo is just showing off when he starts chopping up his own beat in the closing bars. But the track might have seen its most memorable life as a mixtape favorite, with everyone from The Clipse to Chamillionaire claiming it as their own.

#16: Playa "Cheers 2 U"








Released: 1998
Playa were perhaps the most underrated of Timbaland's R&B collaborators. The "Cheers" beat bears a striking similarity to Jay-Z's "Nigga What, Nigga Who" (released the same year), but Timbaland's sound was so adaptable that even the same track could be used for multiple purposes. A few changes here and there, and a heartfelt ballad is suddenly a fast rap battle track.

#15: Nelly Furtado f/ Timbaland "Promiscuous"









Released: 2006
Nelly Furtado came into the game in 2000 as a fairly wholesome pop singer who logged a few thoughtful, if dry hits over two solo albums. The third time around she felt like shaking up the formula, so she tapped Timbaland and Danja for the bulk of production on 2006’s Loose, whose international Top 10 smash “Promiscuous” rang in her sultry new hip-hop persona with production full of brashly artificial flutes and outsized marching band drums.



















#14: Timbaland & Magoo "Luv 2 Luv U (Remix)"








Released: 1997
Timbaland's longtime rhyme partner Magoo—often pronounced "Mag-ah-noo" if he needed to fill out a bar—has never been mistaken for a lyrical monster. He stumbles in a Q-Tip falsetto at any tempo, and it's not like Tim was that brilliant of a spitter himself ("I'm the man with the power / I get booty calls fifteen after every hour"). But their production was always more than strong enough to carry the both of them across three albums. Here, Timbo rocks Donna Summers through a musical fisheye lens.

#13: Tweet f/ Missy Elliot "Oops (Oh My)"









Released: 2002
Easily the best Timbaland song about taking off all your clothes, "Oops" is an ode to the playful fake accident. Tweet, generally a more commanding vocalist, falls back to Tim's haunting strings and stop-and-go drum sequences of an indiscriminate ethnicity, all while Missy plays hypeman.

#12: Aaliyah "Try Again"








Released: 2000
There's no doubt that if any human was born to ride Timbaland's beats, it was Aaliyah. Perhaps only she could truly tame a track like this, giving life to its sub-bass synths. Tim does his part on the ad-lib tip, turning wisdom-soaked Rakim boasts into goofy jewels.














Released: 1998
"Make It Hot" is one of those Timbaland cuts that gives off a haunted aura (and not only for the horror-score scream samples either). The track feels hollow and ominous, even when bookended by Missy's ridiculously cheesy rhymes ("I don't know / if y'all heard / I can fly / like a bird!") and the rightfully forgotten Mocha ("it's a pity that / y'all look like id-iats!").

#10: Justin Timberlake f/ T.I. "My Love"


Released: 2006
One of the more ambitious cuts from Timberlake's second record, "My Love" is driven by an arpeggiating trance synth and, like the best of Tim's work, is densely packed with sounds and layers that reveal themselves on further listens. One such understated element in the track: the dismembered and distant female in the background of the hook. Dismembered and distant female vocals are certainly not uncommon in a Timbo beat, but these might be the most dismembered and distant of them all. Also, T.I. raps well.

#9: Petey Pablo "Raise Up"








Released: 2001
Though there's no question that deep Virginia is southern in mentality, Timbaland's own sound has always seemed more tangentially attached to the Southern rap movement, invoking a more otherworldly feel than any specific American locale. But "Raise Up," a high energy collabo with North Carolinian Mystikal biter Petey Pablo, found Tim making a more explicit nod to the then-bubbling crunk movement.














#8: Jay-Z f/ Big Jaz & Amil "Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)"








Released: 1998
More often than not, when Timbaland makes your beat, the beat is the star. This might be why so many great rappers either floundered on his production or never worked with him in the first place. And why his own stable often seemed so mediocre—a rapper with dead fish presence like Magoo was straight-up trampled by the sound. Jay-Z, of course, was the main exception. "Nigga What" is Jay and his old mentor Jaz staring directly into Tim's headlights and effortlessly fast-rapping their way around the impending collision.

#7: Aaliyah "One In A Million"








Released: 1996
Aaliyah's sophomore record saw a dramatic shift in sound, thanks in part to the inclusion of Timbaland (then an up-and-comer). "One In A Million" was the producer's coming out party, and came out firing, hi-hats exploding in every direction and mindfucking the squares who were expecting another "Age Ain't Nothin But A Number" from Aaliyah.

#6: Missy Elliott "Get Ur Freak On"








Released: 2001
Arguably Missy's most memorable hit, "Get Ur Freak On" found the two collaborators bouncing off each other's oddness in the best way possible. Nobody changes a beat up like Tim, and all that upbeat tabla madness feels like a necessary tightening before the release that comes with the "QUIET!" breakdown on Missy's third verse.



















#5: Justin Timberlake "Cry Me A River"








Released: 2002
The beat-box has always been one of the most valuable weapons in Timbaland's arsenal; it's stunning how much flexibility he's gotten out of manipulated samples of his own voice. With "Cry Me A River," Timberlake makes Timbaland's voice box squelches and fakey scratches that line the track seem absolutely emotive and—vice versa—those elements give Justin just enough of an edge to outgrow his boy-band image.

#4: Ginuwine "Pony"








Released: 1996
Despite its mechanical nature, Timbaland's work has always dripped with a certain sexuality. Not robot-sexy, either—human sexy. Android ballads, perhaps. "Pony" is a great example of this, as Ginuwine lays down absurd equestrian innuendo over sheet-metal beats and croaking frogs.

#3: Jay-Z f/ UGK "Big Pimpin'"








Released: 1999
"Big Pimpin'" not only introduced the mainstream rap world to Port Arthur's finest rap group, it was also the most visible of Timbaland's tracks to be built around Arabic music, flipping Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez's "Khosara." Tim would continue to draw on that part of the world as an influence throughout his career, and many other hip-hop producers picked up on the trend in the decade that followed.



















#2: Missy Elliott "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"








Released: 1997
"The Rain," complete with its bugged-out Hype Williams video, attached a visual—and more importantly, an appropriately quirky personality—to Tim's music. His earlier work's oddness was often to the detriment of his vocal collaborators, but Missy and her trash-bag-in-a-tunnel aesthetic was the perfect vehicle for Timbo's weirdness.

#1: Aaliyah "Are You That Somebody?"









Released: 1998
Timbaland's true crossover moment. "Are You That Somebody" was such a hit that it forced the moment where "The Timbaland Sound" stopped being a curiosity and became the norm. Suddenly, urban radio rolled out the welcome mat for hiccuping drums and crying baby samples, Aaliyah was thrust to superstar status, and Timbaland became the most important producer of his generation.
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