Album: Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment (1998)
By late 1998, Timbaland was the hottest new producer in the music industry, and his solo debut Tim's Bio: Life from da Bassment was a compilation of bangers he made with his frequent collaborators (Missy, Ginuwine, Playa) along with a few of his famous new friends (Jay Z, Nas, Twista). Amongst this exhaustive guest list, the Aaliyah collaboration "John Blaze" got lost in the shuffle, but as we look back, it deserves recognition as a slept-on standout from the singer's tragically short catalog.
An early example of Timbo putting his beatboxing front-and-center, "John Blaze" is goofy, gooey fun. Aaliyah gushes endlessly about a man who looks "so fine" that he blows her mind while Missy (who wrote the song) ad-libs the fuck out of every line. The lyrics are so elementary and repetitive-the titular slang term is uttered no less than 30 times throughout the song's four minutes-but that's kind of the point. With its beautiful, urgent melody and fluttering guitar accents, this song could have been fleshed out into a deep, meaningful masterpiece, but there's something charming about it's juvenile simplicity. Most of us will never know what a late-night studio session with Missy and Aaliyah was like, but "John Blaze" makes the listener feel like a fly on the wall. —Brendan Frederick