Tim & Bob (Tim Kelley and Bob Robinson), also known as Funktwons, are Grammy Award-winning songwriting musicians and a Hip-hop/R&B production duo. Tim & Bob have discovered and or worked on some of the biggest artists in the music industry and has helped develop the Atlanta music scene as it is widely known for today. They have won three Grammy Awards amongst twelve nominations and have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide making them one of the most successful producer duo in music history. They are among the most consistent urban producers in the last 18 years, earning a spot on Billboard's top ten list of producers almost every year since 1998.
Growing up in Peoria, Illinois, Tim was raised on R&B through his father's band. His father was a multi instrumentalist so he quickly learned trumpet (his fathers main instrument), piano, guitar, drums and bass at the early age of 10. From elementary through college, Tim played the trumpet and piano in school band while learning how to read music. He was heavily influenced by pop radio as well. Bob's deep roots in the church as an organist and piano player since the early age of 9 and all through college brought a wealth of gospel music to the duo. They met through a mutual friend at the local mall right next to a music store. Tim recalls; We stepped in the music store and Bob started playing the piano, I was blown away with his skills to the point that I didn't even try and play, that's how awesome he was and I considered myself pretty good. Tim offered Bob to come by his basement studio where his mom bought enough equipment to record music. From there on, the duo exchanged chord progressions on keyboards and guitar. Bob explains; Tim had so many albums in his basement, every room was filled with em especially from artists I had never heard of. I had a gospel collection myself so we figured out a way to fuse the two together in a way no one was doing at the time, in one months time we came up with a hundred or so tracks. We were ready to take a plane anywhere to make it. Just after a year of meeting, the duo moved to New Orleans for a year then Chicago and Detroit where they found a small production company that had a studio. While working one day they met one of George Clinton's background singers Paul Hill. Impressed by they're musical skills he told them producer Dallas Austin would eventually start looking for producers because of the tragic death of partner Randy Ran. The trio worked on demos day and night until they felt the material recorded was ready to be heard and drove to Atlanta where they eventually met Dallas Austin..
They initially got their start at a famous recording studio in Detroit called Sound Suite, and from there moved to Atlanta, where they met super producer Dallas Austin. Blown away by their talent, Dallas quickly signed them to his company D.A.R.P. and stamped them as "Tim & Bob". Upon signing with Austin's publishing company, the duo began working with artists TLC, Boyz II Men, Madonna, 112 (whom they discovered) and Monica ( which they developed). While living in Detroit Tim & Bob met a host of talent and kept a tight friendship with two talented producer/artists in particular, Tony Rich and Mario Winans. Bob recalls; We would always hang out in each other's studio everyday. We made a brotherly code that whoever made it big first, would pull everyone else in. We just happened to step out the camp first and everything flourished from there. The guys owned up to the promise. Soon after signing with Dallas they gave Rich a call and put him on speaker phone with Dallas and later that week Pebbles (L.A.Reid's then wife). Tim requested Tony to sing one of his songs and just like that Tony was on the next plane to Atlanta where he would eventually become a staff writer at La Face as well as an artist. He would go on to win a grammy in 1997 for "Best R&B Album" entitled "Words". Winans was to follow. In Atlanta for a gospel conference, Mario's career began with a phone call to the duo. Tim recalls; We were in a session and Mario called us and let us know he was in town. We stopped our session to pick him up and crashed Dallas session so he could meet and hear Mario's tracks. After three snippets of his joints Dallas told the duo to work with him on his overall sound and he would sign him to the D.A.R.P family. Winans drove back to Detroit and packed his truck up and drove back. We had a room for him in our then studio/house and he lived with us for a while until he scooped up a couple of projects that came thru D.A.R.P.. I remember letting him borrow my whole break beat collection, he would stay downstairs and work for days without rest until his drums were serious. Dallas and I were very impressed with how fast he picked up on R&B music because during that time he was producing gospel music, the genre didn't allow you to go to many places musically and creatively back in the early to mid 90's that secular music could obviously but because of Mario and other trailblazers in gospel music, heavy beat driven tracks are excepted which allows us to come back to our roots when called upon. We're very proud of our boys accomplishments. While bringing in more talent to their camp from the midwest and discovering talent along the way, Tim & Bob continued to sharpen their signature sound and production style while developing a gifted and talented 12-year-old Monica which during that time Austin was considering signing her to his Rowdy label. The duo stopped all projects they were scheduled to work on to concentrate on her debut. 15 demos later 5 of them got polished and eventually landed on Monica's first full length cd entitled Miss Thang. The Rowdy imprint's first project went on to become the most successful one selling 3 million copies. Later on that year the duo hooked up with good friend Darryl Simmons who discovered a young talented female group Destiny's Child. He informed the guys that he envisioned doing most of the ballads leaving them to handle the uptempos for the first project that was scheduled to come out on his production deal with Elektra records, but after recording 10 songs for the group, creative differences came between Simmons and Elektra and eventually left the group without a label home. A call to Randy Jackson, an up-and-coming a&r executive at Columbia records at the time, led to a showcase for the label. Impressed by their performance and especially a then 13-year-old lead singer Beyoncé, Columbia records signed the group. Tim explains; During the process of recording with the girls, Beyonce's voice changed and Columbia was so eager to put the record out that out of the 10 songs we recorded we only had time to do her vocals over on one because our schedule was crazy at the time as well, we were bummed for a while because we worked very hard to help develop Beyonce into a studio rat, she would ask about every button on the mixing board at 13 years old, we knew she was gonna be a beast so we wanted more songs on the album, but we were blessed to have one that made it and she killed it. The self tiled album "Destiny's Childwould eventually go on to sell a million copies. Hard work initially helped the duo establish themselves in the music industry as "A" list super producers in just a short period. During this time the two would also garner two Grammy Awards, including one in 1995 for Best R&B Album for Boyz II Men'sIIand one in 1996 for Best R&B Album for TLC's Diamond certifiedCrazySexyCool. Tim & Bob would become part of history with producing and writing five songs on the Boyz II Men lpIIwhich eventually became the biggest selling album in history by an R&B group and TLC's CrazySexyCool becoming the biggest selling album by a female R&B group as well. Upon winning consecutive Best R&B Album Grammy's, the duo would continue to produce, simultaneously working on soundtracks, includingDef Jam's How to Be a Player,The Players Club,Poetic Justice,Wild Wild West, andNutty Professor II: The Klumps.
They were subsequently brought in by legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to work on some of their projects. Since the early 90's, Tim & Bob has been dubbed the next Jam and Lewis and credits the legendary hitmakers for recognizing their potential and helping them define their production style,
We watched and studied their career so much, we thought all producers had to be self contained and do everything from writing the joints to playing every instrument in a song to even get a shot in the music industry so we started that way beginning with a melody first which is most important to us. We have been very fortunate to work with some of the best. One of the lessons we learned from Dallas, L.A. Reid, and Jimmy and Terry is that trailblazers always define what a radio hit is and what constitutes an album track, they encouraged us to always experiment and always keep our sound cutting edge and creative, but create our signature sound.
Upon becoming a household name in the music industry, the team knew it was time to move out on their own. Soon after departing Dallas Austin, they relocated to Los Angeles and signed a publishing deal and a label deal thru executive and famous guitarist Robbie Robertson with the now defunct DreamWorks Records, instantly scoring a #1 hit with Jon B. ("They Don't Know"), and a top 5 smash for Tamia ("So into You"). Tim & Bob were also very instrumental in getting the rock group Papa Roach signed to DreamWorks while inking a production deal with Capitol Records. The duo signed Athena Cage from the group Kut Klose and produced the entire lp, but because of a shake up of executives and change of direction at the label the project only produced a single for the movie "Save The Last Dance.
In 1999 Tim & Bob would produce Sisqó's worldwide #1 hit "Thong Song" from his debut LP Unleash the Dragon, which went on to become one of the biggest songs of the year as well as one of Def Jam's most successful hits. The single helped push sales of Unleash the Dragon to 5× Platinum and garnered a number of awards, including Song of the Year Hip Hop/Rhythmic at the 2000 Radio Music Awards. It would peak at #1 on the New Zealand charts, #1 on the BillboardHot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, #1 Billboard on Rhythmic top 40 and Rhythmic top 40 Airplay and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively.
2003 was a special year for the duo. While working with Ronald Isley and the Isley Brothers, Ron told the duo that he spoke with one of Earth, Wind And Fire front men Philip Bailey and was told to tell the guys they're big fans of their work and would love to work with them. Instantly Tim & Bob responded to the honor and grabbed a studio room right next to the Isley Brothers session and worked on both simultaneously. Subsequently the results were dubbing two Grammy nods for both, Best R&B Album Isley BrothersBody Kiss and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the song Tim & Bob wrote and produced entitled "Hold Me" from the LP The Promise. It was Earth, Wind And Fire's first Grammy nomination in 10 years which made it that more special for the guys. Tim stated:
"That was one of the highlights of our career..we've always had a friendship turn family working relationship with uncle Ron so he knows how we get down, he comes in and say I wanna sing about this today and we write the lyrics and do the track right there, but for two legendary iconic bands to trust in you to write, arrange and produce the entire songs and the outcome are two grammy nominations are mind blowing to us, we were probably conceived by one of they're songs plus my dad's band played most of Earth, Wind & Fire songs in every gig I even played the drums every now and then with them when i was 12, so to say God worked his magic is truly fitting, a dream come true for us."
Tim & Bob continue to produce hits for the music industry's most accomplished artists. When asked why they think they have been so successful, Bob stated,
It's a few things; we have had exceptional mentors who believed in us, we are very passionate about music and our artists – and unlike most producers; we tailor make joints for artists from scratch. We have been blessed; and although we are proud of the work we have done, we haven't even begun to do our best work yet, we have only just scratched the surface.
On the set of Bobby V's video "Slow Down", director Erik White and the duo became friends and even more so a creative force together instantly. White became a fan of the musical direction Tim and Bob had set for Bobby V's platinum debut so much that he directed the next single, titled "Tell Me", featuring Lil Wayne as well. While on location for the video in Miami, Erik informed them that his future move would be directing films and insisted that they give his movies musical life. They talked about forming a company to do everything in house. Five years later, White kept his word by giving the duo a shot at scoring his directing debut into the film world with the movie Lottery Ticket. Instantly Tim and Bob went to work on one scene at a time eventually impressing another key person and one of the producers of the film Matt Alverez. The continuous work led to the duo's first movie score credit. When asked the difference between producing an artist as opposed to doing film scoring Tim replied: "the difference is like night and day, when we're producing an artist we're always battling for the first single in a single driven industry while walking a fine line between being as creative as we can without sacrificing our awareness of radio friendly records. While scoring a film, the musician side of us can really come to the forefront because everything we've learned about music thru out the years can be showcased without any boundaries and it allows more space to experiment with sounds, crafting and molding musical images while capturing moments of different emotions by landscaping thru creativity, there's nothing like it if your musicality is itching for a scratch, nothing like it."
The NAACP Image Awards is an award presented annually by the American National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to honor outstanding people of color in film, television, music, and literature.