February 19, 2018

Timbaland & Magoo - Under Construction Part II (November 18, 2003)

Especially observant readers will recall that Missy Elliott released an album entitled Under Construction in 2002. This is because I wrote about it just yesterday, you dorks. One year later, a sequel was released, conveniently entitled Under Construction Part II: this will be the subject of today’s post. This continuation is notable for its creative direction, one which just wouldn’t fly with any major studio: Under Construction Part II reduces the protagonist’s role to that of a mere cameo, while the focus shifts to two different characters, one of whom was in the background of nearly every scene in Under Construction, while the other is a brand new entrant to the series, and the narrative chooses to follow this pair instead.

Which means Under Construction Part II should be considered more of a spinoff, not a direct sequel. But Timbaland likes to court possible lawsuits from consumer advocacy groups for false advertising: given how loosey-goosey he is with clearing his samples, it’s not like he doesn’t have several lawyers on retainer.

Under Construction Part II is the third album from the unformidable duo Timbaland & Magoo. A quick rundown, since it’s been a while since I’ve written about these guys: Timbaland is a producer whose ear for unconventional sounds has led him, alongside his partner in crime Missy Elliott, to change the sound of radio multiple times over. Regardless of how you feel about the man, the motherfucker has talent, and I’d like to see you try to create a brand new sound for hip hop and R&B to emulate, and then do it eight more times. Personally, I’m a Timbo fan: his best beats are fucking fire, and they always manage to shake me out of whatever funk I may be in, while his worst work still occasionally contains some interesting ideas and concepts. My only issue with Timbaland is that he’s also a rapper: I’m fine with his constant ad-libbing, but ever since his first album, Welcome To Our World, he’s tried to have it both ways, and he doesn’t have the presence needed to command attention behind the microphone. So it’s a good thing he knows how to work a computer.

Magoo is a rapper that sounds like Q-Tip.

Both hail from Virginia, which, when also accounting for Missy and friends outside the inner circle (such as The Neptunes and the Clipse), comes across as a hallowed ground for musical innovation and/or new ways to talk about selling cocaine. Under Construction Part II is Magoo’s third album, as he was never exactly in high demand as an artist (I don’t believe he’s ever lent a verse to anyone outside of the family, if I’m not mistaken), but it’s Timbo’s fourth: Tim Mosely went solo almost immediately, unleashing a project where he flaunted how many famous friends he had made in the music industry and also Magoo on a track or two. Timmy’s always had far more ambition than his partner, which is probably why you don’t really see Magoo doing much these days, while Tim is at least still trying to rebuild his career in 2018.

Timbaland & Magoo named their project Under Construction Part II in a clear bid to trick people who purchased and liked Missy’s album, which is incredibly fucked up. It doesn’t even matter that Timbaland produced the majority of both albums: it’s still a bait-and-switch, and you should consider the rest of this write-up as a consumer warning. Most likely it’ll be due to the quality of the product, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Right off the bat, you can tell that Under Construction Part II will pale in comparison to its alleged predecessor, as “Intro / Straight Outta Virginia” is a loud aural mess. The musical backing sounds like a logistical nightmare pressed to wax, which is hilarious to me because who the fuck would ever buy this album on vinyl, but hey. Magoo doesn’t even fucking bother to show up for his own rap album intro, leaving Timbo spinning his wheels while adapting N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” to his own life (but thankfully, not by sampling the song itself). This was goddamn freaking awful, and absolutely sets the tone for the rest of this set.

The first single, which remains the only track I even remember from Under Construction Part II, so the rest of this write-up better be a pleasant surprise. (*shakes fist*)  Timbo, Missy (making her only appearance of the project), and Magoo each pay homage to old school hip hop by aping the styles of Rakim, MC Lyte, and Schooly D, respectively, with Melissa sounding the most comfortable overall (it probably helps that she’s worked with Lyte in real life), while Magoo, making his first appearance on his own album, debuts a flow that doesn’t sound so much like Q-Tip’s anymore, and his verse is all the better for it. Timmy does okay, I suppose, but whoever came up with the idea of pairing him up with who I feel is the most influential rapper in existence had to have been joking, and the prank just went too far. His instrumental, which kind of bangs, was his best contribution to “Cop That Shit”. I remember the radio edit being changed to “Cop That Disc”, in keeping with the hook’s anti-bootlegger theme, and I also recall the three honorees appearing in the video, along with a snatch of a song featuring Timbaland’s younger brother Sebastian called “Do Your Thang” that sounded interesting, but as far as I know was never released officially (although you can find it on YouTube pretty easily). I also kind of dug how Melissa quickly shouts out the Neptunes and the Clipse for being fellow “VA players”. Shoot, “Cop That Shit” is going to end up being the best song on here, isn’t it?

Timmy’s instrumental seems to be approaching the constant hum throughout RZA’s beat for Method Man’s “Bring The Pain”, which is odd, as his tribute-slash-sampling of “Bring The Pain” already happened on Under Construction. It wasn’t bad, although in no way does it represent Timbaland making beats “like [he] used to make”, as he states during the intro. Magoo seems to just be there, his verse lacking energy and commitment. At least Timbo sounds excited during his bars. But obviously, guest star Bubba Sparxxx, a professional rapper who had just delivered his Timmy-produced sophomore project, the country-tinged Deliverance, to deaf ears and lazy sales, two months prior, walks away with “Shenanigans” easily, and it’s not even close.

The less said about “Leavin’”, the better. Okay, one thing: John Denver? Really? Timbo, you’re no Mos Def Yasiin Bey, please find a chair and sit your ass down.

There’s a germ of an interesting idea on “That Shit Ain’t Gonna Work”, another rap song that utilizes repetition of the track’s title as a crutch. The instrumental was alright, far more minimalist than one expects from Timbaland, and the concept was decent, but neither Timbaland nor Magoo was the right artist to tackle it, as neither man sounds convincing with their boasts and threats. Ah well, one doesn’t come to a Timbo project for lyrical wizardry.

Did you ever want to hear Timbo quote a bunch of 2Pac lyrics and try to sound menacing? How about he does all of that, but over a beat not produced by him? (The instrumental is credited to J Nitti.) “Don’t Make Me Take It There” may be the song for you.  Even his cadence seems to be aping that of Makaveli, which was a bizarre artistic choice from the guy that created Ginuwine’s “Pony”. Magoo must have been embarrassed for his friend, as he didn’t even bother showing up to the studio that day: instead, guest Frank Lee White, (yeah, I don’t know) is hired on to praise our host’s ability to “keep it real”, as it were. Bleh.

I had forgotten that Under Construction Part II was released during the weird footnote in our chosen genre when producers were obsessed with making their tracks double as Bollywood film soundtracks, oftentimes using vocal samples that they couldn’t understand themselves. (At least Timbo acknowledges this fact during the hook of “Indian Flute”, which, yes, has a flute loop playing throughout, why do you ask?) The music wasn’t terrible, but it is repetitive, and the idea of Timbaland, Magoo, and guest rapper Sebastian all attempting to pitch woo through a language barrier is more a funny idea than it is something a song should be written around.

Not to be confused with “We At It Again”, Timbaland & Magoo’s contribution to the Romeo Must Die soundtrack. Timmy’s beat sounds like an approximation of a Timbaland beat, if that makes any sense: it’s as though it were created by someone who heard some of his production on the radio but took the wrong lessons away. It’s somehow both generic and a welcome respite from the man’s attempts to broaden his horizons throughout Under Construction Part II, but that doesn’t mean “Can We Do It Again” is worth listening to. Timbo dominates the track’s first two verses, shouting out his Beat Club imprint that I had forgotten even existed until writing this very sentence, while Magoo turns in the only decent performance toward the end. I suppose we should all be happy that our host didn’t try to make all of Under Construction Part II sound like this.

This remake of “Indian Flute” (I’m only half-joking here) sounds so blatantly like a reach for radio airplay that I’m surprised it was only barely released as a promotional single without any accompanying video clip. The beat sounds crisper and cleaner than everything else on the project thus far, somehow embracing a dancehall feel while still sounding like, well, like “Indian Flute”. The song itself is a bunch of nothing, but it doesn’t sound bad: Magoo and Sebastian both do their best to take the track seriously, while Timbo has no such reservations and runs with the goofiness as much as he can. Not sure what was behind Timothy’s obsession with having Raje Shwari vocals sound like a sample though (see also: “Indian Flute”; Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “The Bounce”).

Not objectionable in any way. In fact, guest star Brandy Norwood, who has more bodies under her belt than your favorite rapper, sounds pretty fucking good during her slightly-nonsensical hook (why would she turn up the volume on her television and then leave her house? Also, that song title reminds me of that era in Madonna’s career where she tried to reinvent herself the eighty-sixth time). The instrumental is okay but not very memorable and Timbaland & Magoo’s verses don’t approach anything of substance: Timbo talks about the late Aaliyah and his past hit records, a well he goes back to often. But this wasn’t bad. It wasn't great. But it wasn't bad.

The beat should have been sold to another artist. Anyway, “Hold On” is another Timbaland tribute to Aaliyah: I get that her passing hit him hard, but he acts as though he’s the only person in history to have ever lost somebody. Even Magoo doesn’t go down that road, choosing instead to reveal his abusive upbringing and how he persevered, and if verse is far more interesting because of it. Wyclef Jean doesn’t sound bad on here, but that’s no reason for anyone to track this down: just read Magoo’s lyrics online instead.

That song title in no way fits the instrumental provided. To be fair, “Insane” is about Timbaland slowly losing control of his mental facilities. But still, no.

I suppose the song title led me to hope that “Throwback” would sound like a holdover from Missy’s Under Construction sessions. No such luck: instead, we end up with another lesser Timbo beat featuring our hosts boasting and flirting poorly (Magoo mentions making a female companion’s “pussy snap” twice). There’s some scratching toward the end that was welcome, but you’ll never actually sit through this shit, so take my word for it, it exists.

A chorus containing the line, “You carry me like a school folder”, has no place on any album recorded outside of the Disney Radio scene. Which is too bad, as the music was salvageable, if not any of the vocals.

15. I GOT LUV 4 YA
As much as I hate to do this to a song produced by the late Heavy D: Meh.

The last song of the evening is a sequel to “Naughty Eyes”, which, if you’ll recall, I said wasn’t bad for what it was. This Beenie Man-featured follow-up, however, isn’t worth the words I’m about to write. Although heaven forbid he not give himself a verse, Timbo allows Beenie Man to do all the heavy lifting, even with Magoo popping in to claim himself to be a gentleman after asking a woman if it’d be okay to grab her ass. None of this ultimately matters, though, as this shit was horrible.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Under Construction Part II is almost entirely useless. Fans of Timbaland’s previous work won’t find much to latch on to here: he seemed to use this album as a way to spend more time behind the microphone, because why the fuck else would a producer like Timbo hire other producers to do the background work for him? Nobody wants to hear that shit (R.I.P. Heavy D.). I appreciated how Magoo has obviously worked on his flow and his writing: the man shows constant improvement with his contributions, although the bar was already set so low that all he had to do was not stumble over a line and he would receive a participation trophy. But you’re fooling yourselves if you believe Under Construction Part II to be a joint project: this is a Timbaland album through and through, and his ego is on display throughout the album’s run time, as the man believes he is a better rapper than anyone else possibly could, including his own family. (His little brother Sebastian is known for writing some of Timbo’s bars, but even he sounds a bit more interesting in his sparse cameos on here.) Odds are, likely you two didn’t give a shit about this album and have stopped reading this review, so I’ll just fill this space with a political rant: there will never be proper gun control reform in the United States as long as the NRA exists. Tell me I’m wrong. I fucking dare you.

BUY OR BURN? The fuck do you think?

BEST TRACKS: “Cop That Shit”; “Shenanigans”


Timbaland’s career, with or without Magoo tagging along, is discussed further here.


  1. Odd that "Cop That" was the only song you remembered from Under Construction Part II, as I was completely unaware the song even existed in the first place. I'm mostly in agreement that Timbo's beatwork here is atypically half-assed -- in particular, the over-reliance on club drums both makes a lot of the songs blend together and pushes it into "unintentional producer parody" territory a la Visions of Gandhi or Rip the Jacker (honestly, even the pattern for "Hold On" clashes with the string sample.)

    Probably the perfect coda for this album review is that the sample for "Indian Flute", the only song I knew from here beforehand, actually comes from Afro-Colombian singer Totó La Momposina's "Curura"...a fact which, judging from the video, Timbaland was unaware of at the time (and probably still may be).*

    *I see what you're saying about "Naughty Eyes" being a soft-remix, but it also works at least as well as "that remix to Pete Rock's 'Tha Game' that nobody was asking for.'"

  2. Dead album, that is all.