Tim Mosely, who goes by the performance name Timbaland, is one of the most innovative and influential record producers of the past decade, crafting major pop hits for artists such as Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot, Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, TLC, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, and Linkin Park. His remarkable success has afforded him a two-story mansion on 13,000 square feet of land in Pinecrest. The compound, which he says cost around eight million dollars, is one of his many rewards for producing classic, era-defining songs such as Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'" and Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On."
But there is one goal Timbaland has not yet achieved. He wants to be buck.
Since this past November, Timbaland has embarked on an extensive weight-loss program that has helped him drop dramatically from a bloated 331 pounds to, as of this writing, a husky 222 pounds. Concurrently he is incorporating a protein-rich diet into a training regimen geared to turn body fat into thick, protruding muscles.
"I don't want to be lean and cut. I want to be buck," says Timbaland during an otherwise quiet evening at his mansion. "I just like that look. When you see horses, or animals, like you see a monkey or a gorilla, like, they cut.
"It's a freaky look. When you keep working out, you get to be almost like an animal," he continues. "I like the veins popping out. I love all that."
Improbably Timbaland is even considering entering the Mr. Miami Classic, an annual bodybuilding contest, when it is held this July. If he actually goes through with it, he may very well become the first hip-hop star to flex his muscles onstage in nothing more than a pair of spandex briefs. "I'm just going to do it to compete to shock the music industry," he says. "In the little thong shorts, the whole nine."
Timbaland's journey to physical nirvana began late last October when he met trainer José Garcia at the Forge restaurant through a mutual friend. At the time Timbaland was an overworked and overweight, albeit mega-successful, record producer. He ate sporadically, worked long hours, didn't exercise, and didn't maintain a healthy diet. When he did eat, he consumed food in large portions. Eventually his obesity hastened the onset of health and medical problems such as sugar diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and dry scalp.
"They say that when you're overweight, everything changes," says Timbaland. "In pictures you look older. You looked stressed. Weight does something to your skin; it makes you look crazy." He even recounts how he used to "sleep and snore real bad, to the point where people probably think I'm dying in my sleep. You know how overweight people go [inhales loudly] öNnnnugggghhhh'? And then I'd wake up, but I'd never really get a good night's sleep."
Before meeting Garcia last year, Timbaland had unsuccessfully tried to work out with other trainers. "[Garcia] told me to give him six weeks of my life, and he could make a difference."
Now, thanks to losing more than 100 pounds in less than six months, Timbaland is no longer afflicted by his earlier ailments. Radically transforming himself from a fast-food-nation casualty to a Mr. Universe-in-training has profoundly affected him. "I'm trying to talk to the youth," he says. "I never really saw it. Your outer being is who you are as a person. People say no, but your outside affects who you are inside."
Shortly after he began training with Garcia, Timbaland signed on as a major investor in Garcia's company Physique Nutrition, which sells training supplements. Timbaland also agreed to co-sponsor Timbaland's Physique Nutrition Beach Ball Festival, a concert and fitness competition. The April 10 event, organized by TAI Entertainment, is being held on South Beach at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive.
Billed as "a day of friendly competition between your favorite ösexy' servers," the Beach Ball Festival is atypical of the cheerily frivolous sun-'n'-fun South Beach parties held during the winter season. Employees from 25 of the area's top restaurants, lounges, and nightclubs, including Mynt, Space, Nobu, and Amika, will strip down to their bathing suits, pair up in small teams of six to eight people, and compete in games such as rock-wall climbing, tug of war, dodge ball, and relay races. The day's host will be 1997 Playboy Playmate of the Year Victoria Silvstedt.
In addition to the games, a concert will feature earnest rock band Live, reggae balladeer Maxi Priest, and R&B casanova Joe, as well as promised surprise guests. The public isn't allowed to join in the games but can shell out $20 to watch the spectacle and partake in an open bar. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
"It's a day of competition for the hospitality industry," says TAI Entertainment's Alan Roth. But what's in it for everyone else? Roth says it's an opportunity to cheer on and support your favorite nightspot, bartender, and/or server. Also he points out: "Usually when you go to a concert, you pay $25 to $35 to see one act. Here, you get to see three."
In fact it was the Beach Ball Festival that led Timbaland, through Roth, to New Times, offering to talk to us for a story. What made the request extraordinary was that Timbaland rarely speaks to the press, and then only if he has an album to promote.
But when we agreed to two nighttime interviews at his mansion and a photo shoot, Timbaland appeared to be cool, even-tempered, and quiet. Too quiet. When the Virginia producer does say something, he mumbles, his words spilling out in half-formed fragments that sometimes add up and sometimes don't. He rarely applies dates to his eventful life and career, making it difficult to suss out any sort of narrative or timeline.
Alarmingly, he sometimes yawns absentmindedly during the conversations. At one point he even closes his eyes and contentedly lies back in his chair, as if he were bored by it all. When this happens, one doesn't know what to think: Is he just getting comfortable, or is he intentionally being rude?
"He's very quiet. You talked to him once; I'm sure you didn't get more than 30 words," says Rick Frazier, Timbaland's road manager and personal assistant. Frazier, who says he owns a Dallas-based bus company called Side by Side Entertainment, met Timbaland during one of the latter's concert tours. The duo's friendship coalesced to the point where Timbaland asked Frazier to join his staff. "We're like brothers," claims Frazier.
Frazier says Timbaland is laid-back and humble but doesn't say much to anyone, whether friends or complete strangers. This was observed during one of the interviews, when Timbaland briefly excused himself to eat dinner with three of his friends. As loud voices and laughter emanated from the kitchen, his voice was noticeably absent. It was clear that his friends were doing most of the talking, not him.
"He's not Hollywood," says Frazier. "He lets his music speak for him. And now that he has that body, he's going to let his body speak for him."
Born in 1971 and raised in a handful of working-class Virginia neighborhoods, including Bridle Creek and Salem Hill, Mosely is a product of the South, from his shy courtliness to his thick, slang-ridden drawl. A Pentacostal Christian, he attends church on a regular basis and peppers his sentences with frequent references to God.
Growing up, Mosely was always into music, fiddling around with a guitar and drums. "I was never into the sport stuff," he says, though he adds that he enjoyed watching boxing on TV. His interests soon turned to hip-hop and DJ culture. When his father bought him a pair of turntables, he began making mixtapes and calling himself DJ Timmy Tim. In high school he DJ'ed at house parties and made his own beats with a Casio keyboard. "I started making beats because people wasn't making those kinds of beats I like to hear when I'm DJ'ing," he says.
Throughout his teens, Mosely met and befriended many of the key players with whom he would revolutionize the hip-hop and R&B world. He made tracks for Faze (pronounced FAYZ-ee), an R&B group led by Missy Elliot. He formed a rap group, Surrounded by Idiots, with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (who would later form the production team the Neptunes), Magoo (who co-wrote some of Elliot's early solo hits), and Larry Live. But Timbaland says he didn't necessarily plan on pursuing a career in music. "I didn't have no plan. I was just coasting through. I didn't know what I was going to be doing from day one," he says.
Nevertheless, soon after graduating from high school, Faze managed to snare a production deal with Donald "Devante Swing" DeGrate, the producer and mastermind behind R&B stars Jodeci, the early Nineties quartet known for hits such as "Forever My Lady" and, more important, for fusing a bad-boy sensibility with aching R&B vocalizations. "When Missy and her group went up [to New Jersey] to meet Jodeci, they brought me along," says Mosely. Elliot successfully lobbied to keep him as the group's producer, and when Swing saw what he could do in the studio, "it all fell into place," he says.
Faze eventually became Sista, issuing one album in 1994, 4 All the Sistas Around da World, before splitting up. In addition to co-producing that project with Swing, Mosely claims he made several uncredited contributions to tracks on Jodeci's Diary of a Mad Band and The Show, the Afterparty, the Hotel, including hits such as "Feenin" and "Freek'n You." "I didn't get as much props as I should have," he says. "But I'm under [Swing's] wing, so that was to be expected."
Soon after The Show, the Afterparty, the Hotel was released in July 1995, Mosely struck out on his own. Taking on the pseudonym Timbaland, he produced R&B singer Ginuwine's 1996 double-platinum debut, Ginuwine...the Bachelor. That album's million-selling single, "Pony," was strikingly unique, incomparable to anything else being played on the radio. Its rippling, popping beat, full of odd stops and starts, was robotic and fresh, like a video game gone awry. Inevitably Timbaland's groundbreaking sound spawned countless imitators, from dance producers such as the Basement Jaxx to pop pinups such as 'NSync.
Around the same time, Timbaland and Elliot began a long-running partnership as a producer and a songwriter. The duo set to work on Aaliyah's One in a Million and then Elliot's own heralded 1997 debut, Supa Dupa Fly (The Rain). These recordings established Timbaland as one of the most consistently creative producers of the era. More important, he re-established the primacy of R&B music in the pop lexicon. For years, after hip-hop culture came of age in the late Eighties, R&B was considered passé, a handmaiden to the more strident, cutting-edge rhythms driving rap music. But when Timbaland arrived, his innovative techniques were widely mimicked throughout the recording industry; in the hip-hop world, only DJ Premier (Gang Starr), RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Dr. Dre, and P. Diddy's Bad Boy squad rivaled him in influence.
"I don't know what really broke me as a producer. But people just started talking about me," says Timbaland. "I knew I was hot when girls were like, öYo, your beats are off the chain. Your beats do something to me.' When do girls ever pay attention to beats? That's when I knew, okay, something has changed.
"I had 'NSync, Janet Jackson, all of them biting my style," he continues. For Aaliyah's 1999 number-one hit "Are You That Somebody," he remembers, "I started doing the double-beat style, doing stuff like the baby laughing in the records. They was like, öYo, what is this dude doing?' They love it."
Timbaland is an understandably confident man. Like anyone influenced by hip-hop culture, he likes to boast about his achievements, noting unapologetically, "I'm the most creative dude in this game." The sound of the baby laughing on "Are You That Somebody," for example, wasn't necessarily an original idea -- Prince used the sound on his 1982 top-ten hit "Delirious" -- but Timbaland reintroduced it for a modern audience. Similarly, when he says, "I invented this whole trend of producers being on the record," he forgets that rap producers have been appearing on their stars' records since Marley Marl introduced "The Symphony" in 1988 and Prince Paul did funny ad-libs on De la Soul's Three Feet High and Rising a year later. Certainly, in the late Nineties, P. Diddy and Timbaland took the idea of "hosting" a record -- ladling their own vocal ad-libs and trademark sounds (i.e., Timbaland's double-beat) onto someone else's track to make it hotter -- to the next level.
So why didn't Timbaland become a hip-hop star in his own right? It wasn't for lack of trying. Soon after Missy Elliot's Supa Dupa Fly (The Rain) was released, Timbaland reunited with his old rap partner Magoo and released a catchy hit single, "Up Jumps da Boogie." Timbaland and Magoo's cheery, playful debut, Welcome to Our World, sold well enough to go platinum. But the duo's next two albums sold disappointingly, as did Timbaland's only solo album, 1998's Tim's Bio.
After some prodding from a few mutual friends, personal trainer José Garcia agreed to meet with Timbaland at the Forge. Garcia had a reputation for grooming NFL players such as Miami Dolphins defensive back Arturo Freeman and 2004 Pro Bowl defensive end Adewale Ogunleye (who was traded from the Dolphins to the Chicago Bears before the 2004-05 season), as well as celebrities (whom Garcia declines to name for privacy reasons). He usually charges anywhere from $1000 to $3500 a week for his services, which include training, nutritional information, supplements, and mentoring (for example, Garcia says he talks with Timbaland a few times a day). But when he met with Timbaland, the 34-year-old Garcia had mostly abandoned his personal-training business, save for the occasional client, to focus on Physique Nutrition, a company he formed in 2003 with help from several investors, including Freeman.
Physique Nutrition markets three nutritional supplements: 4-NRG (a fat-burning additive), P-NOS (a nitric oxide stimulator), and Kre-Alkalyn. Of the three, Kre-Alkalyn, a buffered powder version of creatine, has the most sales potential. The body naturally produces small amounts of phosphocreatine. When one exercises, phosphocreatine breaks down into creatine and phosphate, and the energy released helps build muscle mass. Creatine is widely available in supplement form as creatine monohydrate. Its popularity skyrocketed when former baseball slugger Mark McGwire, during the 1998 season that saw him break the major-league home-run record, admitted to using it regularly. But Garcia explains that most creatine supplements have numerous side effects, inducing stomach cramps and liver and kidney problems, particularly when they are taken with liquids. In contrast, Kre-Alkalyn can be safely consumed with liquids. "It is the only patented, buffered form of creatine. It allows you to build up lean body mass, not necessarily to burn fat, and have muscle tone at the same time," he claims.
After the Forge meeting, Garcia and his business partner and wife, Leslie Lorenzo Garcia, drove out to Timbaland's mansion. During an hour-and-a-half interview, the couple gathered a case history from Timbaland and learned about his eating habits, his exercise routines (or lack thereof), and what he wanted to accomplish during the training program.
Timbaland's goals encompassed "more than losing weight, and that's the biggest thing we've done with him," says Garcia. "Losing weight, and then getting shaped up, and having muscle tone. His ultimate goal is to be a bodybuilder and compete, and I told him I could take him there. That's a tough goal. I mean, not everybody can reach that. It's very disciplined and very tough, especially [when you're] very heavy. But he said that's his passion, that's his biggest passion in life."
So the Garcias put Timbaland on a weight-training program that included two hour-long sessions a day. He underwent a series of strength routines, including circuit training (repeating six or more exercises, each one focusing on a different part of the body); lifting weights at a high repetition (or "high reps"); doing "super setting" exercises (or two exercises, one after the other, and usually for two antagonistic muscles such as the chest and back); and undergoing cardiovascular exercises to increase heart and lung efficiency.
The couple then prescribed a strict no-sodium, high-protein diet (for building muscle mass). The proteins included organic whole chicken; fish such as tilapia, orange ruffy, and tuna; and ground turkey and egg whites. Then there were carbohydrates such as grains like oatmeal for breakfast and brown rice. For fats there were almonds, fish oils, and flaxseeds. The vegetables encompassed broccoli, spinach, and green and red peppers. All of this food was to be consumed six times a day alongside the aforementioned Physique Nutrition supplements and at least a gallon of Syfo carbonated water a day.
Garcia admits that the regimen is shockingly intense. Complicating matters was the fact that, as a musician, Timbaland doesn't have a regular schedule. He usually enters the studio at night and works until early in the morning. But Garcia remarks that Timbaland "has a phenomenal discipline. His willpower is amazing. Someone who has been heavy all of his life, and in the last few years of his life got even heavier ... his ultimate goal was to look and be in great shape.
"He looks phenomenal today," continues Garcia. "But come two to three months from now, when he gets onstage to compete, that's when it'll blow people's minds." Still, doesn't Garcia think it's a little bizarre that a celebrity artist would want to enter the outlandish and somewhat strange world of competitive bodybuilding?
"Yeah, it is kinda unusual," he admits. "But you know what? It's very exciting to me, because taking a celebrity from one realm, like music, and taking him to the world of bodybuilding ... he could make bodybuilding a whole different thing now."
Timbaland correctly points out that staying fit, healthy, and muscular has almost become a requirement in the entertainment industry. Communicating an image of perfection, whether it is aesthetic, mental, or physical, is viewed as key to maintaining one's celebrity. For years the world of hip-hop and R&B was immune to this philosophy -- after all, one of the most popular rappers of all time, the Notorious B.I.G., was an overweight man known as "Big Poppa." But that's changing too. The new ideal is a rock-hard body such as 50 Cent's: muscular and literally capable of surviving bullet wounds. Notably, Timbaland says 50 Cent is the only new artist he truly admires.
Now Timbaland is well on his way to being a hard body too. Interestingly, he observes, "I don't think it's the actual weight loss. It's the willpower that people get fascinated by. It's so hard [to lose a lot of weight], they wonder, öHow do you do that?' Especially for females, females like that. They're like, öThis dude took the time out of his life to set a goal, and achieved it.' That drives a person to be closer to you because you achieved something they can't do."
With a new body and a new outlook on life, Timbaland hopes that his next album, a compilation that is already slated to feature friends such as Twista and Jay-Z, will be "way hotter" than anything else he's done. "There's going to be some jump," he promises. " Plus, how I look, that's what's going to kill it. Appearance is everything."
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