Well before their signature Tidewater tick rhythms took over radio, teens Timbaland and Pharrell Williams were cutting demos together as part of a collective known as S.B.I. (Surrounded By Idiots). The crew has long been a point of mythology amongst fans of Virginia Beach beatsmiths and at last there is some audio evidence of their existence. Former S.B.I. member and now Timbo A&R Larry Lyons leaked these three early cuts to his Soundclound.
The tracks are predictably rough, informed by the Native Tongues school of playfulness but leaning a little harder to the pop side of the spectrum. DJ Timmy Tim was straight looping up giant chunks of Thriller, young Timbo-friend Magoo was already blatantly borrowing his style from Q-Tip and Pharrell, then known as Magnum, proving to be a little ahead of his time by getting all metaphysically scientifical—Magnum, The Verb Lord opening the door / My third eye’s for thought travel, tickling the core. It’s a cheesy affair (that name alone!) but still an interesting look at two of music’s most important producers’ formative years.
Three unreleased songs from S.B.I. have surfaced and we can say it is definitely a rare piece of musical history. Hear what was running through the creative minds of V.A.’s finest 20-something years back. Pharrell and Timbaland were respectively known as Magnum and DJ Timmy Tim at the time. Until recently, though, there wasn’t much tangible proof of the group.
Timbo’s future partner in crime, Magoo, also appears on some of the music. So, what were Timabaland and Pharrell bringing to the table before they became stars? As the tracks below seem to reveal, they were well ahead of their time even back then, using samples that would years later be the backbone to other artists’ hits. Below is some of what we noticed about the tracks. What did you guys think?
S.B.I. – Skull, Caps & Strip Shirts (91′)
This uses Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” sample. Since the tracks were supposedly recorded in ’91, it means they sampled it before Teddy Riley (SWV version) and Large Professor (Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”). Pharrell later worked under Teddy Riley, so it’s not impossible that Riley got the idea to flip the track from him.
S.B.I. – If Ur Freaky Baby (91′)
This samples Michael Jackson’s “Lady In My Life” (four years before Trackmasters sampled it for LL Cool J’s “Hey Lover”) and uses the Lisa Stansfield “All Around The World” hook, six years before Biggie Smalls interpolated it for Puff’s “Been Around The World.”
S.B.I. – It’s Like That (91′)
This samples Patrice Rushen’s “You Remind Me” four years before Junior M.A.F.I.A. came out with “I Need You Tonight,” which also samples “You Remind Me.”
Though Timbaland’s voice would later become an unmistakable part of the hit records he made with Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Bubba Sparxxx, Justin Timberlake and more, he was just behind the boards on these tracks. It’s said that The Neptunes officially came together shortly after they graduated high school, which was right around 1991, as Pharrell was 18-years-old at the time.