Finding The GOAT Producer: A Tribe Called Quest vs. Timbaland. Who Is Better?

“Finding the GOAT Producer,” the third installment of Ambrosia For Heads’s annual battle series features Hip-Hop’s greatest producers vying for the #1 spot. Thirty producers were pre-selected by a panel of experts, and two slots will be reserved for wild-card entries, including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving beat maker is neglected. The contest consists of six rounds, NCAA basketball-tournament style, commencing with the Top 32, then the Sweet 16 and so on, until one winner is determined. For each battle, two producers (or collective of producers, e.g. The Neptunes) are pitted against one another to determine which one advances to the next round.

Similar to the presentations in “Finding the GOAT MC” and “Finding the GOAT Album,” for each battle there is editorial about each producer that contextualizes the match-up, as well as sample songs, to help voters in their consideration. There is also a poll in which votes are cast, and readers are able to see the % differential in votes, real-time. Though there also will be an enormous amount of debate in comments, on social media, in barbershops and back rooms, which we encourage, only votes cast in the official ballot count. In prior “Finding the GOAT” battles, just a handful of votes often decided the results, in early and late rounds. So while we want everybody to talk about it, be about it too, with that vote that counts.

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A Tribe Called Quest and Timbaland could not be more dissimilar. Whereas the production team of Q-Tip & Ali Shaheed Muhammad were known for creating a Jazz renaissance through Rap sampling and driving low-end frequencies into lyrical Rap records, Timbo’ injected Electronic music into his pastiche. Although the energies and BPMs are vastly differently, Tribe and Timothy can agree on one thing: each is dedicated to the art of moving butts. Both entities produced for themselves (in various formations), and supplied masterful hits for others. In both cases, these careers extend to nearly 30 years in the space, with no signs of slowing down, or weakening the brand. After both A.T.C.Q. and Tim’ pounced on Round 1 opponents, this face-off promises to be a tug of war. Vote below to see your pick advance.

A Tribe Called Quest

Defeated No I.D. in Round 1 (81% to 19%)

A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was not just an awakening in lyrics, it achieved the same in sounds. Credited as a group production, it was Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad largely behind the boards. That formation would hold through the next five years, making some of the biggest leaps in Hip-Hop sound theory, sampling, and overall direction. Tip and Ali took Rap back to its Jazz influence in a way that refused to compromise its current flavors or modern groove. Vibraphones, horns, and upright bass on these works, with the turntable cuts never far away. In turn, Tip, who was the band leader, would be recruited to lend his ears and hands to other works. Apache’s “Gangsta Bitch,” Crooklyn Dodgers’ debut track, and Nas’ “One Love” are just some of the out-sourced magic from Kamaal and company. By 1996, as Tribe was evolving, so were the sounds. The Ummah was born, pairing Ali and Tip with Slum Village’s J Dilla. With Raphael Saadiq and D’Angelo also sometimes members of the ensemble, this group imprinted its mark on Beats, Rhymes, and Life and The Love Movement. There was a gentleness in some of the arrangements not found on early ’90s works, but a pulsating, crisp percussion section previously unavailable too. Further, The Ummah laced Busta Rhymes, made a collabo cult classic with Janet Jackson, and activated Da Bush Babees.


Defeated Swizz Beatz in Round 1 (77% to 23%)

Thanks to the incredibly innovative sound of the Virginia producer, Hip-Hop’s first mental association with “Timbaland” is no longer a construction boot. Norfolk’s Timothy Mosley emerged in the ’90s as a regional mixmaster (tka DJ Timmy Tim) who also produced. Like Dr. Dre and Mannie Fresh, patience proved itself with time, and collected interest. Eventually, through work with Jodeci, Aaliyah, and Usher, Tim’ got his foot in the door through Rap-infused R&B. By Missy Elliott’s 1997 breakthrough, Mosley provided Missy a sound as charismatic as her persona. With his own group of Timbaland & Magoo in tow, the producer could sample, he could play keys, and he carefully arranged drums to push Hip-Hop closer to Electronic music than anyone since Mantronix. In the last 20 years since, Timbaland gave Jay Z a pathway out of his starkly NYC-centric beginnings, and has been at his side for multiple makeovers since. Moreover, Timbo’s beats have made proper introductions for not just Missy, but Bubba Sparxxx, Petey Pablo, Drake, and The Game. A listener needn’t a tag, before realizing its trademark inflection. Moreover, like the greats before him, Timbo’ used his own vocals to enhance many a moment. The artist can go fast or slow with his beats, making arrangements that incite sex, violence, and some of the most danced-to records of the last 20 years. To his credit, Tim has some incredible assistance, ranging from Missy to Danjahandz to Kanye West, but has more than proven his sufficiency. Mosely is one of the true chairmen of the mixing board, and one of the leading forces that helped Hip-Hop (and other genres) stay fresh and upbeat.

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So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above.