Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Is Kelefa Sanneh Stylin on Timbaland?

Surprisingly, I've yet to turn up anybody on either Technorati or Google Blog Search that gets at NY Times music critic Kelefa Sanneh for his retrospective-cum-preview of Timbaland's career. With "Can the Star Maker Make Himself a Star?" Sanneh simultaneously lauds Timbaland's music production as "the most exciting in pop music" while claiming he could never be as entertaining a lyricist as Kanye West, as iconic as Lil Jon, or as as bombastic as Mannie Fresh[1], and thus could never be as famous.

Scott Ain't SummersI'm with Sanneh on the first count, as I am an unabashed Kanye stan. On the second, Lil' Jon is more famous for 'The Chappelle Show' than anything else; I refuse to believe anyone can actually tell his music apart from, say, Mr Collipark's. When it comes to Mannie Fresh, though, Sanneh is effectively son-ing Timbaland. Take a look at the Google Trends for Timbaland versus Mannie Fresh, Jazze Pha, DJ Clue, and Swizz Beats. As "unscientific" as Mountain View claims that is, we can be reasonably sure Timbaland is killing those cats for mindshare.

Maybe Sanneh thinks they aren't famous, either, though. As one-half of the Big Tymers, Fresh was a hit performer, but if you ask anybody who the star of the Cash Money clique was, they're definitely not going to pick him. Swizz Beats doesn't even show up in the RIAA's online gold/platinum status databse. Clue and Jazze don't rap. Ditto DJ Dangermouse, who is too busy pulling a Chad Hugo to ever try and be star.

Which brings up the current composer[2] best-compared to Timbaland: Hugo's fellow Neptune Pharrell Williams. Both have around a half-dozen albums between collabos and solos, and both have failed be as a big a hit performing as they have been producing. You can say that's because Pharrell was just too weird with N.E.R.D. to go beyond gold, that last year's "In My Mind" did okay considering how weird 2006 was for rap. In any case, Pharrell's famous, right?

Now ask yourself, is Pharrell more famous than Timbaland? Does unleashing the post-ska Gwen Stefani on the world somehow make Pharrell more recognizable than the Justin Timbaland Frankenstein monster? How could Sanneh not bring up Pharrell in his article [Interrobang]

[1] Presumably Sanneh is using Mannie Fresh as but one example of a producer who talks enough over a beat that you can't ignore him. Why he didn't go with DJ Clue is beyond me.
[2] Sanneh mentions Dr Dre, which in turn lead me to think of Warren G. Both long gave up rapping, though (you don't really think Detox is coming out, do you?), and the current era has a different standard of success. 5 years ago, Press Play would
have gone umptuple-platinum.