By Cammy Thomas
At last! It’s here! The beautiful Miss Justine Skye broke the space / time continuum to bring us an album laced with 90’s flavours and sassy female anthems and let me tell you, I AM HERE FOR IT!
If like me you have been following Justine’s journey closely while she took her time creating this sauce filled album, you will know it all began when ‘Super dope beat maker’ (his words); Timbaland contacted Justine via Instagram last year after he presumably became aware of her Aaliyah covers, and the rest as they say is history. After Justine expressed her disbelief that she missed the call from one of the top 5 producers in the world, they finally caught up with each other and embarked on the creative process which would eventually become the ‘Space and Time’ album we see before us today.
For a year Justine Skye and Timbaland teased and tantalised us via their respective social media, with snippets of their studio sessions, most of which took place deep into lockdown via Instagram split screens. Each 30 – 60 second clip contained Timbaland sat at his production console sharing a fire rhythm he’d concocted just for Justine often nodding his head so hard the beat I thought it was going to drop and roll onto his console, and on the other side of the screen Justine would sing over Timbaland’s distinctive, often disjointed drum patterns, or she’d simply bounce to the beat, or playfully rap, exploring an array of melodies and harmonies, thinking out loud as every talented artist does when they are brain storming. It was evident from watching the clips, Justine had a lot of fun playing with different singing styles and flows, as she searched her never ending talents to marry her vocals with Timabaland’s elite production.
Throughout 2020 I was more excited to see a new ‘Space and Time’ clip from Justine and Timbaland’s studio sessions, than I ever have been over a Love Island recoupling! Witnessing their creative process felt organic and nostalgic, especially for those of us who remember how Timbaland (along with Missy Elliott) sculpted Aaliyah’s sound and career in the mid 1990’s propelling her to iconic status within the R&B scene and the music world in general. Watching Justine and Timbaland create chemistry, it was clear to see that Timbaland had found his muse in present day to inspire creativity within him, and it was obvious Justine felt honoured to be working with a prolific producer like Timbaland, who was committed to pushing her creative boundaries beyond her comfort zone and building her confidence with each session. It was the very definition watching two creative talents coming together to make sweet music.
Altogether Justine and Timbaland released 8 – 10 Space and time clips and with each new clip, I would tweet them practically begging for an official release of the project, in one long form cohesive album (I know hits that will break the internet when I hear them!) Who knows if they saw my tweets amongst the thousands they received daily, I doubt it very much, but I like many of their fans, was overjoyed when the news came out that the sessions would be released as a full length album in June 2021 and we are! Let me tell you, this album was worth the long wait and my ears have interpreted these 11 tracks over 29 mins and 20 secs as aural harmonious heavenly perfection. Justine’s sweet n soft feminine vocals meld perfectly with Timbaland’s inventive productions and signature sound effects, which makes the producer instantly identifiable on any track he puts out with a variety of artists across differing genres, whilst adding a smattering of unique quirks in only the way he can to the proceedings. All the tracks we heard on the minute-long clips are there in their entirety, making it so satisfying hearing them mixed, mastered, and completed to shine in full glory. Justine’s vocals are breathy and beautiful on ‘It’s About Time’ as she also taps into her falsetto range with ease.
‘In My Bag’ is an anthem for the independent woman, working hard and grafting to afford their own spoils and riches in life, It’s fun and feisty song and uses a similar break beat heard on Timbaland and Nelly Furtado’s absolute smash; ‘Say It Right.’ The double time claps on the chorus feel like Justine and her girls are cheering you and your girls on, to be successful high achieving women. The song is most definitely an anthem for the ages! ‘Do It Right’ is one of three of my favs on the album, due to Justine’s sultry vocals positively purring over the absolute masterpiece of 1995’s so called ‘baby making’ track ‘Freek’N You’ by the legendary Jodeci. Justine succeeds in making the classic track fresh for a younger audience. Also, it must be noted that Timbaland honed his craft whilst living with Jodeci, Missy, Ginuwine, and host of other well-known artists who used to jam all day in a building block as part of a collective named Da Basement Cru, led and discovered by Jodeci’s lead singer Devante Swing, no wonder Timbaland was able to get his hands on a slew of coveted samples for Justine’s ‘Space and Time’ album. These artists are Timbaland’s long time peers and music partners. (Ok history lesson done! What’s up next!)
Without a doubt my fav track on ‘Space and Time’ brings together Justine and Justin, lets be honest it was destined to be, not only because of their shared names but also the fact Timbaland produced all of Justin Timberlake’s top 10 album’s – ‘Justified’, ‘Futuresex/Lovesounds’ and ‘20/20 Vision’ (parts 1 and 2), get you a producer like Justine, and this is the calibre of artists you too could have access to! ‘Innocent’ by Justine Skye and Justin Timberlake is a master class in sample usage, duets, and harmonies. The track is absolutely flawless, Justine airs her grievances to Justin and tells him – “Boy I hate when sh!ts like this maybe I’m insecure, wasted , you ain’t innocent, you aint innocent boy, you ain’t innocent…’, here Justine shows off her vocal ability and control over them using riffs and runs, as she coos and croons her thoughts on this…entanglement. Enter Justin Timberlake on the second verse pondering why Justine won’t reach out to him and proclaims other men can’t give Justine what she’s looking for like he can. He then confirms her worst fears as he sings “Oooooh I hate when sh!t gets like this you get so insecure and venomous…” Chiilleee get them a counsellor! But in all seriousness the track is the standout on the album, and it’s even more captivating because it samples baby girl’s, aka Aaliyah’s CLASSIC ‘If your Girl Only Knew’. Both artists did the much love track justice (see what I did there?! I had to!)
‘We’ feels magical and dreamlike, with sprawling guitar strums, butterflies gliding against a harp and the plush plink plonk of luscious keys! Justine sounds sweet and girly as she drifts along on memories bliss on this bittersweet offering which tells a tale of a relationship that has come to its natural end. On ‘Twisted Fantasy’, Justine explores her lower register on her verses and injects her fluttery falsetto on the chorus. The twist in the track comes with dancehall air horns and reggae tinged bars courtesy of featured artist, Rema. ‘Hey Sucka’ is where Timbaland’s sound effects are at their most prominent, over the last 30 years the infamous producer has mastered the art of using his mouth as an additional instrument, providing an interesting hook with his repeated diss of “Hey Sucka nig*a” throughout. ‘Hypnotized’ is the shortest track on the album and it’s more of a mood than a melody. The track sees Justine in a mode I like to term as – ‘I’m so sass I will drop you on your ass.’ The track is aptly short as it seems to serve as a quick jab or sharp sting to her man, who appears to be messing about with another woman. The no nonsense lyrics contrast well with Justine’s usually feminine delivery we are used to hearing.
Final track of the album ‘Mmm Mmm’, incorporates another element of production Timbaland does oh SO well, infusing Middle Eastern sounds (think back to the 00’s Timbaland produced, Nelly Furtado track – ‘Wait For You’) and instruments with more traditional instruments heard in pop music. ‘Space and Time’s’ final track is part pulsating and intoxicating club beat, and part blockbuster Bollywood movie and the result is a delicious melisma of East meets West. We’re also treated to a Spanish Guitar in the last third of the track, and the whole affair is a stunningly sexy, shake your rump outside café Mambo against the backdrop of a million stars and flame eating limbo dancers on the beach until the sun comes up. The track is a little sizzler to end the album and gets us in the mood for travels to our favourite holiday destinations to resume.
‘Space and Time’ really does transport you to a golden age in 1990’s and 2000’s R&B where vocal ability was just as important as image, and I’m pleased to say Justine Skye has both in abundance. She manages to keep every song in the here and now whilst paying homage to classic jams. She does this by swapping the lovelorn, woe is me sentiments which were common in the 1990’s, for an up to date 2021 modern, headstrong woman rhetoric, who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. The union of Justine’s honey sweet vocals, and Timbaland’s quirky beats, is nothing short of EPIC, and all I need to know is, when are we boarding their sonic space(ship) to take us to another time in music, because I’m ready for the one way trip!…Failing that could we please get a Justine Skye and (British artist) Roses Gabor collabo please? I can already predict the earth-shattering reverberations of these two colossal talents from the U.S and UK joining forces.
Photo Credits: Main Image – Spotify, Second Image – Lakes Media Network, Third image – Hiphopdx, , Fourth Image – Billboard
*LISTEN* TO SPACE AND TIME. BY JUSTINE SKYE. PRODUCED BY TIMBALAND BELOW: