The Timbaleak: Why Big Producers Often Mean Big Leaks

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The leak of Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 was big news this week.

The highly anticipated album slipped nearly two weeks prior to its in-store, despite tight security.  And the leak, first tipped by BigChampagne, had been feared for some time.  In fact, it was reported back in June that Jay-Z had planned on delivering the final product to Atlantic Records in London – in person – to avoid such a slip.

Perhaps 2006 was fresh in everyone’s memory.  When Jay’s Kingdom Come leaked three years ago, Universal Music Group lodged a lawsuit against now-partner MySpace.

But this is about more than just Jay-Z and some leaky albums.  The issue has deeper roots within the highly-collaborative process that surrounds hip-hop production, often under the supervision of a super-producer.  Indeed, for many big-name MCs and R&B singers relying on major producers, the leak has become a regular affair.

The reason is that famous producers frequently employ a coterie of beat-makers to create the final product.  Combine a connected, collaborating team with ubiquitous internet access, and leaks become almost inevitable.  That includes Timbaland, hardly a secluded producer in a dark studio.

Instead, Timbaland has plenty of sub-producers, with Danja being the most notable.  Jay-Z, interviewed by MTV after three Timbaland-produced tracks leaked, diplomatically acknowledged the problem.  “[I don’t know] whether Timbaland or his camp got their email jacked or however, because it was only his songs that leaked first,” the rapper noted.  “Now, the whole thing is going to leak pretty soon.”

Of course, it did – during that interview.   But is there a solution?  Even a rabidly independent producer like Kanye West – who maintains tight control over his music and videos – witnesses unintentional leaks all the time.  Add more players, egos, and collaborative processes into the mix, and security becomes a prayer.

And, not every leak is an accident.  Just last year, producer Polow da Don intentionally leaked some Usher tracks – including “Love In This Club” – to spark pre-sale demand.   “Radio stations were getting it off the internet and playing it,” Polow da Don told MTV News in May of 2008.

Report by John Robinson.