Timbaland Explains How Willy Wonka Inspired One Of Aaliyah's Biggest Hits

By Tony M. Centeno

May 2, 2023

Timbaland & Aaliyah
Photo: Getty Images

Timbaland recently revealed that the true inspiration for one of his most popular collaborations with the late Aaliyah is *checks notes* Willy Wonka.

According to a report Pitchfork published on Sunday, April 30, the seasoned producer shared intimate details about Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?" during a virtual appearance at the 2023 Pop Conference at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. During a panel discussion with producer Take a Daytrip, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Timbo chimed in with the revelation about the song after Take A Trip suggested a hook from Lil Nas X's "Industry Baby" was inspired by a scene from Shrek 2.

“I actually was trying to make the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory beat from the ‘Oompa Loompa’ song,” Timbaland explained. “I took that rhythm and I listened back to it and I was like, ‘Man. that’s a dope addition.’ That’s what I was trying to attempt, but in a hip-hop way.”

“I gotta thank Willy Wonka for that," he added.

Timbaland continued to dissect the song's instrumental even further. He explained the origin of a particular single guitar chord that he ended up using for the song's main sound. He also revealed where the infamous baby sound came from and how it became “the missing piece of the whole beat" for him.

"So I was going through my effects sounds, and I heard this baby," Timbaland said. "Was it a baby, was it a chicken, there was a cow, there was Godzilla, this whole row. And this baby came across, and it was laughing, and that [one sound] wasn’t the whole thing. It was like [imitates four consecutive baby giggles]. I got to that one part, and as soon as the beat came on, I just hit the button. I didn’t think it was gonna work. I was talking to Aaliyah from where she was sitting on the couch, and I just hit the button and it was in key. Everything was perfect. I put it in the song and she said, “Oh that’s so cute!”

"Are You That Somebody?" dropped nearly 25 years ago as apart of the Doctor Dolittle soundtrack. It became a commercial success around the world and even got Aaliyah a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

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