It’s 5:22:04 in the morning, and I still haven’t developed a concept for what will be two of several new columns debuting within the next couple of weeks.
My eyes are burning from the glare of my florescent 60 watt desk lamp. My forearm has what could easily be mistaken for tribal marks; as a result of remaining hunched over my desk while I stare like a zombie at my computer screen.
Finally, for a moment I drift away and forget the duties at hand, only to be rocked back into consciousness by that good ole’ reflexive snap of the sleepy head nod.
Then it hits me--write about what you love and enjoy. Therefore, this week I present the 7th Shot and Pull Up the People.
The 7th Shot is your destination on sixshot.com for interviews and articles that extend beyond the scope of hip-hop to focus on musical genres such as R&B, jazz, funk, and more.
Pull Up the People is where you will find in-depth coverage of celebrities and social justice leaders crusading to make a difference when it comes to political, economic, and various social issues.
In this week’s post for the 7th Shot, I interview super producers Tim & Bob (trust me, they’re funkier than they sound). In our debut for Pull Up the People, I discuss the state of education with National Education
Association president, Reg Weaver.
So there you have it, two down and several more columns to go. Enjoy!
Tim & Bob: Showtime
Modesty has its virtues; it keeps one grounded, level-headed, and appreciative of the intrinsic value of one’s work. However, too much modesty in the music industry can sometimes turn what is a potential figure of blazing light into a forgotten shadow.
Case in point: the multi-instrumentalist Grammy winning production duo known as Tim & Bob. You may not immediately recognize their name but you know all of the artists and hit songs this duo has been responsible for within the past 15 years—resulting in sales of over 170 million units worldwide.
Tim & Bob have worked with iconic and diverse artists such as Michael Jackson, TLC, Madonna, Babyface, Nas, and many more.
Their hit songs include Sisqo’s "Thong Song", Tamia’s "So Into You", and many other classics. Finally this super talented production teams is stepping out of the shadow of their own success and modesty, to rightfully take center stage as one of music’s most dynamic duos.
In the process they talk about their signature sound, the state of urban music, upcoming reality show, and reveal what’s really going on with 112, Bobby Valentino and Brandy.
When people try to describe your signature sound they focus mainly on the Asian R&B sounds you incorporated into your production as seen on Bobby Valentino's, Slow Down. However, your music is so diverse with everything from R&B to rock. How would you two describe your signature sound?
Tim: We would describe our music as feel-good music. We try to write uplifting lyrics to show how R&B used to be. We believe that R&B music was about love. We’re trying to carry on the tradition of Teddy Pendergrass, the O’Jays, and so on. So we just make good positive music and that’s what we stand on.
Your music can be read as a bridge between the secular and the non-secular. For example, Tim’s primary influence was pop radio and for Bob it was the church. When you two came together how did you combine those different influences to form one cohesive sound?
Tim: Being from the Midwest you get everything because you’re right in the middle. You hear east coast, you hear west coast, down south, and you basically hear everything. So when we came together we asked each other “Who do you think is the best from your world?” We started naming different cats like The Winans, The Clark Sisters, The Isley Brothers, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and Gamble & Huff--which I think is the epitome of duo producers.
We went through their discography and studied their music. Then we took all of that and just meshed it all together and said, “Alright we got this right here, let’s see what we can bring to the table.” And we just blended it all together and put it in a pot.
I was reading your MySpace page and one of you wrote about missing the 1990’s. What do you miss from that era in music?
Bob: Basically we used the ‘90’s and ‘80’s as a reference. That was my favorite time of music because it seemed like there was much more freedom in the industry to be artistic, as far as the artist and producer are concerned. That’s when you didn’t have twenty different producers on an album.
You had at the most maybe two or three [producers] on an album which created a lot of consistency; and made it more pleasant to listen to whole albums which gave artists more of an identity. I think the quality was much better than what it is now because it was a lot more musical.
You guys look up to Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis for their melodies in particular, and they advised you to keep the melody in your own music. Why do you think the melody has disappeared in much of today’s mainstream music, and do you see it making a comeback at all?
Tim: I would say it’s got no other choice but to come back. It’s weird that you say this because Jheryl Busby--he gave us our first shot at Boyz II Men when he was at Motown-- was talking about how when he was at CBS; Motown was doing what it was doing, the Philly sound was doing what it was doing, and all of a sudden out of nowhere comes disco music. It took the music industry by storm and everybody felt like they had to [beatboxes a disco beat and laughs] have a disco beat. So I think that’s what’s going on right now.
You got southern music that just came and took the industry by storm with Lil’ Jon and Jermaine [Dupri]. I have respect for those guys but everybody felt like to get on the radio or to get signed they had to sound like that. It’s like the disco era. But it’s [southern music] kind of falling off now because you don’t hear those songs going straight up the charts and sticking up there for a long time. People want to hear something new and you got people scratching their heads like, “What’s next?” Well I think it’s time for melody and R&B music to come in and take a stand, and to take the industry back to where it used to be.
What kind of creative process do you two have?
Bob: It’s crazy when people see us working. We’ll write a song and pretty much won’t say anything to each other until the song is done and we’re about to track it, and the artist is about to go in the booth.
We’ve done so many songs together through the years that we already know what the other is person is going to think or say. Once you’ve written hundreds of songs together its second nature.
Tim: We make it [recording] a really fun atmosphere. We start out of the gate laughing and acting like fools. So the [artist] is looking at us like we’re really cool. We encourage the artist if they know how to write to go ahead and get their stuff out because it’ll be coming from them. But somebody might write something down that’s whack, and you can’t be scared to say, “Hey, I don’t like that.”
Our motto is to check your ego at the door because we don’t have one. We’re all trying to accomplish one goal, and the goal is to come out of here with a hit record. The only way you can do that is to throw your ego away because a hit record is what keeps you going in the industry.
Is there one person who handles more of one aspect of the production than the other?
Bob: We both do it all; keys, guitar bass, vocals.
Compared to many other highly-successful producers in the industry like Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, you two have kept a relatively low profile. So what led to the decision to start a reality show?
Bob: It’s a conversation that built into an idea for a show. The show will profile everything from a record producer’s perspective. I think it will be a good outlet for producers to get some exposure as well as for people to get to know the producers. We’re two humble guys and we don’t try to be flashy.
We’ve always been about the music. So this is a good way to fill that space where you do want people to see things from your perspective, and you do want a chance to try and connect with the people that follow your music. This is an opportunity to do that.
Tim: We also listen to this bishop that we really love, Bishop Noel Jones, and we always remember what he said, “You’re not a success unless you have successors.” That’s why we felt the need to come into the limelight with this show. It will let people know what they need to do to be a producer. First of all you have to go where it’s at; you can’t just stay in your little town and just expect to be a producer when you’re only snapping your fingers.
So you have to go to NY, Atlanta, or wherever you have to go. Second, people think that you just pass a track around and you’re a producer. Well, we want to show people on the show that a producer’s job is way more than that. You have to make sure the song is written right, sounds right, and so on. So we want to bring that perspective to young up-and-coming artists, producers, and writers to show then how to do it the right way. I think that’s what’s missing now. Artists are following what they hear on the radio stations and think that’s the right way to do it but it’s really not. The radio station just wants to play what’s happening right now; and that doesn’t mean it’s a record that was done properly.
When can we expect the show to debut and on which channel?
Bob: We’ve been having development meetings with people, and we’re just waiting to find out who’s going to give us the most creative input, and what channel it’s going to land on.
We used to have producers that stayed behind-the-scenes. However, now we have so many producers that are like artists in the sense that they are talking over a track or they are in the artist’s video. How do you feel about the current trend of the producer as a celebrity?
Bob: It’s opening the door for a lot of people to be more open to the voice of the producer, but at the same time everybody that turns on the drum machine now calls themselves a producer. The producer is the new artist now and the same thing with writers as well. But that’s one of the main things that keeps us inspired and to stay true to the music that we do.
We’re very confident in our abilities and so we’ve seen these phases come and go where there’s a hot producer for a month, and then you don’t hear about him no more, and then there’s another hot producer. So we’re not even trying to pay attention and get caught up in that stuff because staying true to the music is what’s important to us.
You guys have some artists of your own: Mahagani, Shannon B, Chico, Eddie Cole, and Porscha Coleman. What is the secret to breaking an artist in an increasingly competitive music industry?
Tim: Well to go back, a lot of people don’t realize that we put 112 together and got them their deal; we developed Destiny’s Child and got them their deal, and we developed and got Papa Roach their deal.
We also developed Monica and got Dallas [Austin] interested in signing her, so we know exactly what to do to break an artist. It’s [about] shock value. The artist and music can’t be straight up the middle; it’s got to be straight up the middle and towards the left or the right. Otherwise it won’t get any attention because it’ll be just like the same thing [that’s already] out. You want to put a little something in there to grab people’s attention with a new artist and we managed to do that.
For example with Bobby Valentino, we had that Asian sound--with hip-hop mixed with guitars--tucked away because we wanted to match that sound with a person that could carry the sound.
We felt Bobby could do that because of the way he looked: the color of his skin; [his] naturally curly hair; the bridge of his nose. You know little silly stuff. [laughs]
[Laughs] You two must have been all in his face!
Tim: [laughs] He’s like our little brother and we felt that this sound was perfect for him because you got all kinds of nationalities that like this guy as a result of that one song, "Slow Down". I that’s why he didn’t do what he was supposed to do with his second album. This was supposed to be his breakout album and he jumped right out of the lane that he entered in.
The music that he’s making [now] sounds like Omarion or Marques Houston. Any of those songs could have gone to any of those artists and they could have sung them just like Bobby. With that first album he stood out. So that’s what we do with new artists, we try to bring shock value to the music.
I think Timbaland is good at that because he’s not scared to push the envelope.Bob and I have never been scared to push the envelope. So a new artist is kind of easier than an established artist because nobody heard them yet, [laughs] so you just have to open your mind and see what you can come up with.
What’s going on with 112? I read that Daron Jones left the group and that other members are doing solo projects.
Bob: With 112 it’s so disappointing because I think besides, Boyz II Men; they were one of the most talented group of young guys to go into the studio.
We’ll talk to Q one day and then we’ll talk to Slim—and it’s just sad. We’re thinking back to how it was when we first met them; going to their high school graduation, picking them up from school, and what happened now is sad.
What happened? What were the changes?
Bob: They’re just now on different pages.
Tim: It’s The Temptations all over again [laughs] and you know what’s so funny is that you see Jagged Edge together.
Once Jermaine [Dupri] got a new deal on Island Def Jam they got a new video and single out, and you would have thought that they would have broken up before 112.
112 were so tight because they kind of knew each other from high school, and they always wanted to be like Boyz II Men. They were like, “Could you guys just let us sit in on your sessions with Boyz II Men?”
We always had them come in and sit in the back and watch us so that they were prepared, and it just seemed like they would never break up. I guess between money, women, and rumors, it all kind of disbanded those guys.
I hear you are working with Brandy on her upcoming album.
Tim: Yeah, we’re working with Brandy and waiting to see what’s going on with her and where she going to land at with her situation. Right now she’s just in there doing demos.
How is she holding up considering the accident?
Tim: She’s doing really well. From the type of person that she is you would have thought she was going to shrivel up and die, because she’s a really caring and a really good person that was in a bad situation. But she’s holding up real good and she’s coming back into the studio. I guess that’s the best thing to do is to go into your creative mood and that helps everything.
Besides working on the Brandy album what’s up next for you two?
Tim: We got a new group, Mahagani. Look out for their single, "DJ (Stand Over There)". That’s going to be a big record and it’s out right now. It’s doing really good.
Bob: And of course we have an array of artists on the schedule: Janet [Jackson], Lionel Richie, Bobby’s third album, Ludacris wants us to mess with him on his record, Busta Rhymes, and Mary [J. Blige]. We worked on her last album and they always call us for her albums so hopefully that’ll work out too.
For more information on Tim & Bob and to listen to Mahagani’s single, "DJ (Stand Over There)" please visit: http://myspace.com/timanbob
Get the latest info related to