“Each beat, each riff, each raindrop, each moan, each gurgle – is priceless,” he states early on in the book. “A painter’s palate of possibility, a fortune beyond measure.”
But while the general public might have first gotten to know Timbaland through his work with Aaliyah, Timbaland had spent years before his work with her honing his craft as a DJ and producer, and paying his dues in the humblest of ways before his career took off. He shares details in the book on the modest lifestyle he once had working at Red Lobster to support his music career, and having to resort to ramen noodles as a staple part of his diet when his music was being shelved and consistently overlooked by his first music industry mentor, DeVante Swing from Jodeci.
While it might seem from the outside that Timbaland was an overnight success, his book unquestionably shows that it took him years of practice, patience, and perseverance to eventually reach his big break, which came after years of hard work. At a recent press event for his book at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, NYC, Timbaland reflected positively on his experience with DeVante Swing, and gave perspective on how his lessons learned in the industry also influenced his decision to write the book, saying, “Now that I’m older it (speaking on the experience of having his music shelved by DeVante) was the best thing to ever happen. It was like boot camp. He made me who I am today… The music business is cutthroat and you gotta be a strong person. For me to do it for 25 years and be successful means it’s my calling on this Earth to give back.”
From getting the scoop on what it was like for Timbaland to hunker down for years with Missy Elliott in a cramped apartment with a ferret to nail their signature style and sound when they were unknowns waiting to blow up, to learning about his first time playing the “Big Pimpin’” demo for Jay Z, to getting charming tidbits of history including Timbaland’s conversations with Pharrell when they were in high school and Pharrell apparently rocked dreads, Timbaland: Emperor of Sound, is a solid read, an inspiring memoir for anyone trying to make it in the music business, and a great stocking-stuffer for the sonically curious at this time of year for the holidays.