Timbaland and Justine Skye On Their Cosmic Connection
Justine Skye is a classic Virgo. Even in the midst of a pandemic, and on the heels of her debut independent album, Bare With Me, she’s still doing work. The 24-year-old R&B singer’s industry domination has been a long time coming. At 13, she tagged along with her entertainment lawyer mom to a music panel and, during the question and answer session, wowed executives with an impromptu cover of Sam Sparro‘s “Black and Gold.” At 19, she signed with Atlantic Records. Four EPs, two albums, two labels, one collab with Tyga, and millions of Instagram followers later, Skye is now on her own, an independent artist making the kind of honest, Europop-infused R&B she’s been dreaming of since her Tumblr days. Well, sort of. She’s been getting a little help (and a lot of advice) from Timbaland, the legendary producer behind decade-defining hits including Missy Elliott‘s “Work It,” Aaliyah’s “One in a Million,” Jay-Z‘s “Big Pimpin,'” and Justin Timberlake‘s “Sexy Back.” In the midst of quarantine, the pair has begun a heaven-sent creative collaboration, pioneering the form of the Instagram EP with their socially-distanced Space & Time Sessions—a preview of what’s to come on their forthcoming EP. While the two have never met face to face, their chemistry is nothing short of cosmic. After all, Tim is a Pisces—creative, calm, and effortlessly cool. “When I called you, it was really just like god sent a touch,” he tells Skye over the phone on a balmy June afternoon. “As soon as I heard your tone, it was just like, ‘Let’s do this.'” —SARAH NECHAMKIN
JUSTINE SKYE: How are you feeling today?
TIMBALAND: Today I feel good. Just waking up everyday is a blessing. Sometimes you wake up like, “Damn, it’s still quarantine.” But at least we have our health and our minds and our spirit.
SKYE: And how have you been holding up with what’s going on in the world, because I know me and you talk a lot about that and we’ve shared our perspectives. I guess things are not lightening up, but we’re starting to see some change in the world.
TIMBALAND: I think that it’s crazy we’re in a pandemic and a systemic race war. It’s a lot going on. But at the same time I just feel like the world was going to explode sooner or later. And I feel like with us being locked down, it made everybody pay attention to a lot of things that were getting swept under the rug. So it has a silver lining. I think now we’re taking responsibility for the bad in the world that we’ve been overlooking because we live our lives day to day, always on the go. But sometimes being on the go is not the move. Sometimes we need to sit back and reflect on what’s really the problems of the world. So I believe this was actually a wake-up call.
TIMBALAND: It’s good to see that people are paying attention to all of the things that we were kind of blinded to before, like the racist statues that have been put on a pedestal in all of these communities around this country. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place because they represented something that was so awful in our country and oppressed our people. And I’m glad to see that. I call you Generation Z. I always go to you because I feel like y’all generation is the leader of this world going forward. I’m glad that y’all generation are really pointing out things and taking steps forward to remove these things so we can create the new world and make it about just loving one another.
SKYE: Throughout this whole pandemic, one of the things that I can say I’ve been grateful for has been the time that I’ve gotten to think about and focus on my craft as an artist, as a musician, as a writer. And one of the things that has been most exciting has been working with you on these Space and Time sessions. Basically it started with you reaching out to me, which was super dope and a highlight of my career.
TIMBALAND: When I called you, it was like god sent a touch when I was picking up the phone. As soon as I heard your tone, it was just like, “Let’s do this.” And during quarantine it felt like it was the perfect time. I’m thankful that I was a blessing for you, but you’re a blessing for me because I get to show the world, with patience and timing, how you build an artist. It’s not just building a song; we’re building an artist. I haven’t met you face to face, but I feel like when you walk in here I will know you because the chemistry is so real through technology. In person, it’s just going to go to the next level. We have this technology, we can create the new wave of letting the people inside the recording process on how it’s done through what we have. The power of that is very huge.
SKYE: If you would have told 14-year old Jus that Timbaland would be saying these things to me right now, she would have never, ever believed you. Obviously I tell you this literally all the time, but I’m just super, super appreciative of you for being patient and working with me. I’ve learned so much throughout this process and we haven’t even met yet. But when I send you something we’ve worked on, I still get nervous. But the chemistry is so natural.
TIMBALAND: When something is natural and it feels good, we just got to stick to it. We got to believe. The people are going to come as long as we believe. It’s almost like a cleanse for me. I feel like a lot of people are paying attention, and that’s what music does. If it’s great, it will reach who it needs to. It will touch who needs to be touched.
SKYE: I can’t wait for us to actually get into the room together and create this magic and these visuals as well, because just visually I’ve looked up to artists like you and Missy, and Pharrell and JT and Aaliyah my whole life. And so being able to just get a droplet of what you guys created is just a dream of mine.
TIMBALAND: We got to give back.
SKYE: Being signed to two labels, and now that I’m independent, I’ve just been trying to figure out what I was going to do as an artist. I just dropped my album, Bare With Me. It’s been so dope just seeing the reaction it’s getting, showing people a different side of me that’s more alternative—adding that kind of European, alternative aspect to R&B, which is just something that we’re perfecting over here on this side. So many people have been asking about when Space and Time” is coming. So we’ve got to give the people what they want, Tim.
TIMBALAND: I think we’re dropping one today. So after we drop one more, we just need to lock it down, just come down and finish those. I was thinking about it. Maybe it should be like Space and Time EP, Volume One. I think we could probably do two volumes, maybe three volumes, just because all of this will be a part of your story as you grow. These are creating a new way of mixtapes without calling them mixtapes.
TIMBALAND: You already hang with the supermodels now, and they all love you. So you got to treat it like if it was a perfume or a collection, like it’s some clothes. Your music has to be all as one, because I see you doing fashion. So let’s treat this package of music the same way. Don’t just always say, “Oh, my mixtape.” No, Space and Time, Volume One. You can see the girls and be like, “Girl, you got that set, that Space and Time whole bundle? You got that Volume One, that Volume Two, that Volume Three?” And then the next one, it’d be the same way, but we’ll name it different. Treat it like if it’s part of your brand going forward with your merch, because you that’s how I see you. I see you as something global.
SKYE: Thank you. I‘ve been sitting here going over the mood boarding of what we see for the project visually. I’ve been super inspired. We’ve been watching movies. We’ve been surfing the internet, looking at dope pages on Instagram, just pulling inspiration from so many different places. It’s going to be sick, trust. I can’t wait to share with you.
TIMBALAND: I know it’s going to be dope because I believe in you. I’m just glad to be a part of it. I guess it’s very rare that I believe in something, but with you I believe in it. I’m just grooming you for the big-time.
SKYE: Wait, I have one personal question for you. I always ask this question to people, but I never asked you. What’s your Zodiac sign?
TIMBALAND: I’m a Pisces.
SKYE: No way. I don’t know much about Pisces, but recently I’ve been learning a lot about them. Obviously, you’re super cool and chill and passionate about your craft. I’m a Virgo.
TIMBALAND: So you got to be on point.
SKYE: Exactly. We’re perfectionists, in our own way. I’ve met some messy Virgos, and I’m just like, “How?” But their mess is perfect for them because they still know where everything is in this mess.
TIMBALAND: For real? Wow. Swizz [Beatz] is a Virgo too.
SKYE: Oh, for real? Virgo men and Virgo women are so different, but similar at the same time.
TIMBALAND: For real?
SKYE: Yeah. One of my best friends who’s a guy is a Virgo, and he’s a little cuckoo. You do give me great guy advice sometimes. The other day we were on the phone, and I think we were talking about something and you were like, “Oh, my bad. You’re right.” And then you were like, “See Jus, that’s the type of man you want in life. Someone that’s not afraid to apologize.” And I was like, “Man, look at that. Look at this advice I’m getting from Timbaland.”
TIMBALAND: It’s the truth. History repeats itself. I know you got to live your life, but if I can lend some advice, that would be the advice to always keep in your back pocket. You’re like, “Tim told me.”
SKYE: I’m sure you’ve seen a few things in life. I’m still learning. I’m only 24, but I feel like we as artists grow fast because our lives are very fast-paced and spontaneous. And so, to get that advice from you was sick.
TIMBALAND: I’m just being the uncle. We’re in 2020, about to be 2021. What was the past cannot be the future. We’re tearing down monuments that were there in the past, but now we’re getting rid of them for the future. So I try to give a little bit of the past, and you take it for the future.
SKYE: Yeah. A lot of what I am writing about is from personal experience. So whether it’s a heartbreak or just a flirt with a guy or whatever’s on my mind when it comes to relationships, it’s dope to have these conversations with you because then it inspires me as well as to which melody I should say what I’m trying to say in. It’s real art happening over here. Real life, real time, real stories.
TIMBALAND: That is so dope.
SKYE: I feel like we covered a lot. What do you think?
TIMBALAND: See, me and you think alike. We know when to draw the line.