Timbaland Explains How 'Willy Wonka' Inspired Aaliyah's “Are You That Somebody"

At NYU’s 2023 Pop Conference, Timbaland revealed how 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' inspired the beat for Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?"

Timbaland at Pre Grammys party in 2020, Aaliyah at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards

Image via Getty/Gregg DeGuire/Kevin Mazur

Timbaland at Pre Grammys party in 2020, Aaliyah at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards

During an appearance at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Record Music’s 2023 Pop Conference, Timbaland revealed how Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory inspired Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.”

Timbaland appeared virtually at the event and shared how the 1971 musical inspired the beat behind the track after Take a Daytrip said a scene from Shrek 2 helped inspire Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby.” “I actually was trying to make the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory beat from the ‘Oompa Loompa’ song,” Timbaland said, referring to the reoccurring melody the Oompa Loompas would sing throughout the film. “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, Per Pitchfork.

During the same chat, Timbaland said that the baby noise used on “Are You That Somebody” came from a ‘60s compilation of sound effects. “So I was going through my effects sounds, and I heard this baby,” he shared. “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!’”

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Last month, Timbaland shared another admission about the experimentation that went into the creation of an Aaliyah classic. In a chat on the I AM Hip-Hop podcast, Timbo said that he was playing around with his keyboard when he stumbled into the core of Aaliyah’s “Try Again,” which served as a bonus track off her self-titled third and final album.

“I was playing with the keyboard and it was a mistake, and my engineer Jimmy Douglass caught it,” he said. “I said ‘Jimmy did you catch that lil rhythm?’ [and] he said ‘I sure did. So [after] he caught it and played it back, I put the beat on it. I said ‘Ooo chop it right there,’ and he chopped it right there.’” 

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