The Origins of Justin Timberlake's Love Affair With Black Music

By 2002, Justin Timberlake had tired of his reputation as an *NSYNC frontman, Micky Mouse Club alumnus, ramen noodle-haired hottie, and the-guy-in-the-ABC-TV-movie-Model-Behavior. He didn’t want to be Justin Timberlake: Popstar. He wanted to be Justin Timberlake, the white guy who belts and dances his way into becoming an R&B icon, maybe even scoring a hood pass for good measure.

With the help of Michael Jackson and mega-producer Timbaland, Timberlake embarked on a journey to pop and R&B superstardom, releasing his debut album, Justified, in 2002 and his acclaimed follow-up, FutureSex/LoveSounds, in 2006. A critic once lauded him as “one of the few white men brave enough to make black music.” But his fight for R&B kudos wasn’t without its casualties—namely, Janet Jackson’s career.


Not a Phase is back, baby, and we’re kicking off this season with a look back at Timberlake’s career in the 2000s and how his rise to the top on the shoulders of black artists should have come with a little more solidarity thrown in there.

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.



No disrespect intended, but this isn’t new ground. Elvis, among many other bands and solo acts, did the same thing.