London Camden Monarch

Increasingly, the world of Hip-Hop is no place for loners....

INCREASINGLY, THE WORLD OF HIP-HOP is no place for loners. If you aren’t part of an all-encompassing and ruthlessly driven crew, part of a protective street corporation, you’re nothing. But whilst Puff Daddy’s Family, Masta P’s No Limit Soldiers and the [a]Wu Tang Clan[/a] appear to be the ruling operators, Da Bassment may well turn out to be the most powerful crew of all.

[I]Da Bassment[/I]? That’s the name of the Virginia-based team of rappers, singers and producers headed by Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott and Tim ‘Timbaland’ Mosley. Beyond Missy‘s own massive solo success, they’ve masterminded the beats of R&B stars Aaliyah and Ginuwine and are ubiquitous presences on damn near every movie soundtrack released, as well as the latest cred-enhancing collaborators of Mel B and Whitney Houston.

Now it’s Timbaland‘s turn in the spotlight, following up his joint album with helium-toned rapper Magoo, mystifyingly still unreleased in the UK. ‘Tim’s Bio’ is, predictably, a great sprawl of an album, one that showcases the vocal styles of what frequently appears to be everyone he’s ever met in his short but dazzlingly lucrative career.

Occasionally Timbaland raps himself, deadpan and robotic as ever, but really it’s his trademark sound that is most striking. ‘Tim’s Bio’ is an object lesson in modern beat science: edgy, staccato rhythms that recall a shiny ’90s revitalising of electro; brutally clipped funk samples; and astonishingly innovative varispeed beats.

The latter is most apparent on ‘Who Am I’, when newcomer Twista raps at a breakneck pace while Timbaland ups the ante even further with beats cranked up to virtual jungle velocity. For ‘Here We Come’, he bastardises the old [I]Spiderman[/I] theme tune while all his mates throw comedy braggadocio postures. On ‘What Cha Know About This’, he wrongfoots female rappers Mocha and Babe Blue by abruptly changing the tune halfway through.

Of course, the massive variety of voices make this so-called solo debut a little inconsistent, no matter how homogenised and attention-grabbing his music is. And the album’s curious split – tetchy rap first half, smooth, if warped, R&B second – makes it a rather imbalanced trip. But as a playful, sharp primer to a whole clutch of black American music’s most radical new forces, ‘Tim’s Bio’ is the business.