Out of the booth & into the limelight: Sound machine retools pop careers

Unlike the work of most pop producers, Tim “Timbaland” Mosley’s beats and left-field style are so distinctive, you can tell one of his joints the minute it jumps off.

Fearlessly crafting simple sonic pastiches that can include sitars, baby cries, mariachi horns, pan pipes and harps — with whomping beats underneath — Timbaland’s tracks utilize multi-culti musical influences from all over this planet, and seemingly some others, too.

After beginning his career by ushering a small cadre of hip-hop compatriots to mainstream success, he’s now branching out to work with pop artists, as well as rockers, from Bjork and Coldplay’s Chris Martin to Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, whose current breakthrough CD “Loose” is the first release from Timbaland’s new Mosley Music Group label.

In the 1980s, Rick Rubin produced the Beastie Boys and Run DMC before working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash, and Timbaland seems like one of the few current hip-hop brain trusts that could build such an eclectic mix of collaborators.

A major piece of the 1990s tectonic shift in rap that focused the music world’s attention on the explosion of innovative hip-hop artists emerging from the South, Virginia-based Timbaland still produces artists on his home turf and has added space in Miami.

He started out by crafting beats for a close-knit stable of hip-hoppers, including high school pal Missy Elliott, Ginuwine and the late R&B songstress Aaliyah. He then added Timberlake, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg and Nas as well as Jay-Z to his list.

But just as the 34-year-old’s unique production styles are being compared to others — including his Virginia Beach comrade Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes — Timbaland is angling to take his sphere of influence well beyond the hip-hop scene.

Also in the can are the Timberlake single “SexyBack” and Jamie Foxx’s CD “Unpredictable.”

Not standing still, there are now rumors eking out that the producer is working with Jay-Z on a comeback album after the rapper’s supposed farewell CD, “The Black Album.”

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