The mega-producer was a frequent collaborator of the “More Than a Woman” singer throughout her career before her tragic death in 2002. Joined by Missy Elliott, the trio was responsible for her hit second album “One in a Million,” which included singles “If Your Girl Only Knew,” “Four Page Letter,” and titular track “One in a Million,” and reached double-platinum status, selling more than 8 million copies worldwide.
During a chat with rapper Rick Ross, Timbaland opened up about how the now-iconic business relationship began all because the singer followed her gut instinct and listened to the talent behind a demo track created by him and Missy that she decided to pass over.
“We sent her a song called ‘Sugar and Spice’; this how dope Aaliyah was, she said, ‘I don’t like the song ‘Sugar and Spice,’ but I want to work with the producer and the writer who wrote that record,’” the “Verzuz” co-creator told Ross. “And she flew us up the next day. She didn’t like the record, but she knew it was something special in me and Missy.”
“So that’s why she is an angel,” he continued. “She felt it in her spirit. … At that age she was 17. … Just to be able to call that out at that time. ‘I don’t like that song, but whoever wrote that song, I want to meet them, and work with them.’ That’s smart!”
The original demo track was recorded by artist Tweet who was part of R&B group Sugah at the time, and the “Oops (Oh My)” singer recalled laying down the tracks as a bit of “spur of the moment” fun while attending a release party.
“‘Sugar and Spice,’ it was just spur of the moment. Everybody was in the studio in the back, like, having fun, enjoying the release party, and Missy was like, ‘C’mon, let’s go do a song!’ Just spur of the moment, and she wrote it, and we did it right there while the party was still going on,” Tweet told You Know I Got Soul in a 2010 interview.
Missy and Timbaland decided to send the recording to Aaliyah’s camp, who felt the track was “a little too kiddie” but were blown away by its musical composition.
“In the process of recording ‘One in a Million,’ we got a demo from Timbaland and Missy. The song was called ‘Sugar and Spice,’ which felt a little too kiddie to us, but the structure of the record, the melody, had what became Tim’s signature triple-beat on it,” said Aaliyah’s cousin Jomo Hankerson to You Know I Got Soul. “We were overwhelmed, and we sent it to Aaliyah. She called us back like, ‘The track is crazy, this is the best thing I’ve ever heard.’ So we flew Timbaland and Missy into Detroit to work with her.”
That flight and subsequent meeting launched Timbaland and Missy to star status and the “Pony” producer also told Ross that he and Missy are eternally thankful to their “angel” Aaliyah for being their “entry into the game.” “She was a vessel,” he said. “She was our angel that put our work out.”