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Swizz Beatz and Timbaland talk longevity, the music business and the future of hip hop at REVOLT Summit in Atlanta

The two producers sat down at the REVOLT Summit for an in-depth conversation about the music business.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.


Authenticity rules their world. So, in pure Swizz Beatz and Timbaland fashion, the two famed producers prepared the crowd at the REVOLT Summit x AT&T for an in-depth conversation about the music business. Their mission for the discussion? Put the youth on game.

They began with their iconic “Timbaland and Swizz Beatz” battle that previously went viral on social media. Timbo started by beatboxing only to acknowledge each other’s greatness. In rebuttal and with full respect, Swizz stated: “This is when Timbaland really finished everybody.” The Bronx beat-maker then proceeded to mimic the beat to “Are You That Somebody?” by the late Aaliyah. “When you hit ‘em with ‘dirty south’! This man had a baby crying in the beat,” Swizz continued.

The hitmakers even made it a point for creatives in the audience to take notes on “the secret sauce,” as Swizz so proudly explained.

Swizz asked Timbo, “What’s your secret sauce to longevity?” Timbaland brilliantly replied, “I think we both can say this: We both didn’t have the tools that they have today. It was really me in my own head competing with myself... I was just always trying to out-beat myself. Never get comfortable... I always knew somebody else was coming, such as yourself, Pharrell, Kanye... I just wanted to stay ahead of the curve. That’s what kept me going. And will power.... But, the one person that really kept me going was Missy Elliott... I could do a hundred beats for [her] and she would probably only choose two.”

To give a little back story on Timbaland and Missy’s era of musical milestones and hits, the two worked together for their first time on the record “Here We Come” in 1998 — and the rest was music history, Timbaland helped lay down the tracks to some of Missy’s most influential songs. From Timbo’s perspective, there would be no him without Missy.

Swizz added: “I feel the key to my longevity has been to [stay] real with myself. Not believing who they say you are and not understanding who you really are.” As he expressed his journey in the game, he continued, “You gotta fail and get back up. And fail again and get back up... That, to me, indicates that you’re a great artist.”

Life is a cycle indeed, and as creatives, the two attempted to paint the picture to the crowd. Swizz said, “[Manage] your expectations, educating yourself in the business that you say you love... You can’t be in the business and [not] know the business. That’s a disservice.”

In his utmost respect to the game, Swizz opened up about his thoughts on the industry’s current state by saying, “There’s a big difference between a beat-maker and a producer... I feel that we need more producers than beat-makers... [Beat-makers] are not equipped enough to get in front of an artist and construct a song, challenge that artist in the studio. Let them know your presence is important.”

As Swizz asked Timbaland about some of his failures, Timbo spoke about his Timbs Bio album only selling 50,000 copies in the first week. He said, “The thing that I got caught up in was that I thought I was bigger than the music. Never think you’re bigger than the music. Never take your gift for granted... that [album] to me was my first setback... I wasn’t used to something not selling to my expectations and I just learned to be humble, keep working, never get satisfied.”

Having no ego involved in the work, whatsoever, is the ultimate key to success, and these two producers proved to be gatekeepers of the culture with their massive accomplishments over the years. With questions swirling around in the crowd, Swizz asked Virginia’s finest one crucial question that was being beckoned throughout the REVOLT Summit in Atlanta: “How can [these young creatives] get their foot in the door? How can they get started?”

Timbaland replied: “My advice is that you [have to] believe in yourself... You [have to] know that you got it... You never know who you’re playing your beats for. Like Andre Harrell that’s sitting here, he jumpstarted my career. He had Jodeci and I did records with [them]... You just never know.”

Coming from Virginia, Timbo also opened up about the time he and Swizz didn’t get along. Timbaland recalled, “[There] was a point in time in both of our relationships where we both expressed to each other [that] we didn’t like [each other]... He told me I was an a**hole and I had to agree with him... Coming from Virginia and being competitive, you never want to lose your spot. I didn’t understand that a relationship was more important than concentrating on your spot.”

All in all, the point of the REVOLT Summit is to unite hustling creatives and industry pros, as well as to remind the youth that empowering one another will take us further as a culture than the dog-eat-dog mentality that was once known to move the needle in the industry. Timbo stated: “Always embrace because you never know [when] they might have some jewels that will help you in your career. Because [Swizz] gave me a lot of [them]... I know that this is a dog-eat-dog sport and you kill what you eat. But, I like the fact that the younger generation now — y’all are doing the thing called sharing.”

Giving the audience their time to shine, the two icons looked to the youth for questions. One person, in particular, stood out amongst the crowd. Miami Gold asked Timbaland: “I was reading your book and in the part where you talk about being in your basement and you were making ‘Pony’... What kept you going?” The producer paused for a moment and replied, “I really have to credit God and Missy. I wouldn’t have been in the basement if it wasn’t for Missy. [She] saw who I was [and] saw the gift in me. She discovered me, she kind of made me... It was a woman who discovered a man” (crowd cheers).

Although the crowd wanted more time with the two stars, Diddy had to step in to press pause on the panel. Timbo brilliantly ends the conversation by saying, “What keeps me going today is... Sean “Puffy” Combs... I watch his Instagram when he says ‘hustle.’ I could be sleeping in the bed and he makes my ass get up. You need somebody that you look up to that inspires you. I’ve known him for years, nobody works as hard as this man. And sometimes I think I’m doing something great... I look at him and he keeps me going. He’s like my college. I go to the Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs College...”

When it comes to putting together an unforgettable experience, there is no other man to look to for that other than Mr. Combs. As REVOLT Summit makes its final stop in Los Angeles, REVOLT TV will make sure to give you the most up to date information, so that you’re well prepped. See you soon!

You’ll definitely want to join us and AT&T in L.A. on Oct. 25 - Oct. 27 for our three-day REVOLT Summit, which was created to help rising moguls reach the next level. Head to REVOLTSummit.com for more info and to get your passes now!

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