Timbaland's late-'90s work in the worlds of R&B and hip-hop contributed in large part to the genre's escape from breakbeats. His move towards more syncopated drum tracks, freed from the rhythmic monotony of the early '90s, was his primary innovation. And he popularized this innovation because he was a great songwriter, and he worked with great songwriters (Missy Elliott) and performers (Aaliyah) alike.

Since that time, Aaliyah's demure mystique—conveyed with understated poise—and Timbo's balance of sleek, smooth production and syncopated bounce became an inspiration for hundreds of artists from a wide variety of genres. From indie electronic artists like the Junior Boys to alt-R&B newcomer Kelela to hip-hop's dominant performer of the moment, Drake, Aaliyah and Timbo are two of the game's most namechecked artists. (Sometimes to the point of cliche.)