August 24, 2008

Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly (July 15, 1997)

Melissa Elliott's career had an inauspicious beginning: she was part of a female R&B group, Sista, who secured a record deal through Jodeci member DeVante Swing's imprint, Swing Mob, but never saw an actual album released. Nobody knows what happened to the other members of Sista (although I once asked one of them for more Splenda for the table, and she obliged begrudgingly), but this story isn't about them.

Missy Elliott, as she would be called later, utilized her clout with DeVante Swing to set up some of her friends with the Mob, among them gifted superproducer Tim Mosely, or Timbaland, as he is better known today. After the whole deal (and possibly friendship) with Jodeci fell apart, Timmy blazed the trail as the producer of R&B singer Ginuwine's debut album, and Missy made her abilities known as a singer/songwriter, although the majority of her actual singing was in the backup department, for other, more established female singers. Occasionally Missy would score an actual guest appearance slot, but this was more for her rapping than her singing, although she can actually sing, unlike some of these folks out here.

Timbaland and Missy became the songwriter/production team of the moment in the late 1990's, creating hits for artists that would have otherwise disappeared off of the musical map, including 702, SWV, and, eventually, the late Aaliyah, with whom Tim and Missy's career would fucking explode. Timbaland's unusual, yet club-ready beats, combined with Missy's songwriting talents, resulted in so many hits that the duo would become highly sought after. Timbo, of course, later became one of the most popular producers on the fucking planet, retooling the sound of popular music whenever he felt like it, and Missy would become one of, if not the, most influential female in hip hop history (based on sheer creativity alone), but none of that could have happened without Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's solo debut album, Supa Dupa Fly.

Funny, I had completely forgotten about that nickname of hers.

Although she was presented with multiple record deals, the most notable being from Puff Daddy's Bad Boy Records, a label with which she did a lot of hired help, Missy opted instead to take the label deal Eastwest put on the table. She recruited Timbo to man the boards exclusively, called in some favors from some of her previous collaborative efforts, and crafted a debut album that many critics claimed to be incredibly far ahead of its time. Indeed, none of it sounded anything close to what was on the radio at the time (unless you compared it to the other Timbaland/Missy songs that were slowly working their way into rotation), and its videos were also met with unanimous praise, proving that, even though music videos are ostensibly five-minute-long commercials for albums, they didn't all have to have the same look: video director Hype Williams also deserves some of the credit for that, as he was never really able to do the ridiculous bullshit he's so well known for now until he started working with Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, another pioneering artist who, coincidentally, appears on Supa Dupa Fly.

Supa Dupa Fly sold tons of copies and made media darlings out of Missy and Timbaland, who would release his own album later in 1997 with his steroid carrier Magoo. Her career was just getting started: after the release of this disc, she would go on to release many more albums, write with a lot more artists, win multiple Grammy awards, and live a charmed life.

Too bad her solo debut sounds so goddamn terrible. (Damn it, I did it again!)

Busta doesn't prove himself to be very useful on this rap album intro, but it at least makes one wonder why it took so goddamn long for Busta to get a Timbaland track for his own solo work. The beat sounds like a retread of SWV's "Can We", a Timbo-produced song that I happen to still like.

Does anybody else find it odd that you have to push your way past two rappers (the aforementioned Busta Rhymes and, on here, Lil Kim) before you can even hear Missy's voice? This song is pretty weak, and is not a good sequencing decision: there's no reason this should be the first actual song on here. However, I do like elements of Timbaland's beat, and I also recall liking the song's remix more, with its strangely dark video, bizarre metal horse, and floating objects. Missy also fails to actually explain what a "hee" is, which is incredibly frustrating.

Light years beyond what the first single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" could properly prepare us for, and not just because the video clip for this track takes place on another planet (at least, I think it does: honestly, I don't remember anything about the video except for the color orange). The Delfonics's "Ready Or Not, Here I Come (Can't Hide From Love)" is put to pretty creative use, in my opinion: even Da Brat, a female rapper of no real consequence otherwise, sounds really good over this beat. Nice work, everybody.

Missy Elliott's first solo single, which sounds decent enough (Missy sounds awkward as shit, and her rhymes are far too simple for most hip hop freaks (I mean, seriously, "Beep beep, who got the keys to my Jeep? Vrooom....."? What the fuck is that shit?), but the beat is good), but the song's real contribution to the cause was its Hype Williams-directed video, which set expectations a bit too high for the artist involved (I'm sure Missy wakes up in the morning wishing she could just shoot a regular, run-of-the-mill music video in front of an abandoned project building at this point). The use of the chorus from the Ann Peebles hit "I Can't Stand The Rain" comes off as a bit lazy, though.

5. BEEP ME 911 (FEAT 702 & MAGOO)
This song doesn't get nearly as much attention as the rest of the album, but it was released as the third single. My guess is that its video wasn't as visually compelling as the others (having a video set in a dollhouse can do that to a song's chances at popularity). I've always liked this song, as it contains one of the most minimalist, unorthodox Timbaland electronica-tinged beats he's ever made (for Missy, anyway), and even Magoo's appearance can't ruin this awesome track.

Oddly, Supa Dupa Fly was front-loaded with its first four singles, which means a lot of listeners probably never made it past "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" (unless they were brave enough to sit through "Beep Me 911"). Tracks such as this one illustrate why those listeners may have had the right idea.

I'm pretty sure that Missy just called herself a golddigger on this song. Considering her persona and how she handles herself in the media, I wasn't expecting that type of shit from her. Oh well. This song isn't altogether bad, even though ripping off Musical Youth's "Pass The Dutchie" is hardly original.

This skit is similar in concept to whatever guest rapper on the Clipse's aborted debut Exclusive Audio Footage mentioned that "everyone" wanted to jump on to a Neptunes beat, and that was before the Neptunes even became popular. What is it with Virginia producers and rappers that causes them to snatch up all of the door prizes before the announcer even walks up to the podium and tells the contestants what kind of game they'll be playing? And the weird thing is, none of the artist I'm talking about (Missy, Timbaland, the Neptunes, the Clipse) were wrong: they would all become successful, and their early words would become profoundly prophetic. Huh.

Would have sounded better had Timbo felt confident enough that the listeners would recognize Ginuwine, his first artist and the reason Timbaland became a name-brand producer in the first place, without having to beat us over the head with a sound effect from their breakthrough hit "Pony" (a song which I still think sounds fucking terrible, like a frog burping into a microphone while some guy tries his best to sing around it).

A bland R&B track, save for the late Aaliyah's contribution, but then again, I've been a fan ever since the "Back & Forth"/marriage to R. Kelly days, so the song is upgraded to "alright". May she rest in peace.

Honestly, spellcheck should be a rapper's best friend, but it's hardly ever used. Anyway, years before Beyonce released her annoying hit "Irreplaceable", Missy crafted her own diatribe against men who take their significant others for granted. This song by itself is not great, but it's not terrible: it's certainly more vulgar (and, as such, more realistic) than "Irreplaceable", at least.

The hook on here is proof positive that Missy truly believed in the fact that, as long as the beat is good, she could spit whatever bullshit she wanted, and nobody would be the wiser, because it would sound good. The problem with this theory is that Missy was actually right: this isn't bad at all. Mind-numbingly stupid, yeah, but not bad.


Yeah, but I'm not listenin'.

Timbaland does some interesting things with the beat, and the rhymes (provided by Space, apparently, although I could swear Missy's artist Mocha appeared on here, but she's not listed in the liner notes or online anywhere) actually sound like a rapper tried to write something hot, but the hook is pretty awful. Otherwise, this isn't bad, although the monologue Missy has toward the end of the track is boring, when she sings a slightly altered version of the hook she wrote for Aaliyah's "One In A Million" after rationalizing why she was going to sing it.

No rapping here, but you can hear the distinct sound of a rap album outro sucking if you listen closely.

Missy takes a crack at her own album outro, and sounds much more sincere and thankful than Busta Rhymes ever will.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Supa Dupa Fly is a mixed bag, with the needle pointing toward "avoid" more often than not. This freshman outing for Missy (and for Timbaland, who is just as much the star here as Missy is) was almost universally praised for the sound that it brought to hip hop and R&B, a sound that everybody else is just now starting to replicate (if you listen to the radio today, which I don't recommend, you'll hear songs by producers who were obviously inspired by this super duo), and for that alone, Missy and Timbo should feel honored. However, realistically, Supa Dupa Fly was the audio equivalent of the two masterminds working out their professional relationship, feeling each other out, and testing the general boundaries on both hip hop and music in general. And, as such, it comes up empty more often than not, especially when it comes to the lyrics, which are either generic-sounding (as it comes off on almost every R&B track) or terribly delivered (almost every single one of her rapped verses). Ultimately, a misfire (even in 1997, when I first bought it: I was one of those listeners that could never get past "Beep Me 911"), but one that shows giant fucking sparks of creativity.

BUY OR BURN? If you even consider yourself a minor fan of Timbaland's body of work, you may want to consider burning this one. Everyone else need not apply. You're not missing much of anything, regardless of what the magazine critics may tell you.

BEST TRACKS: "Beep Me 911"; "Sock It 2 Me"; "Izzy Izzy Ahh"


Read related posts (more related to Timbaland than Missy, truthfully) by clicking here.


  1. Max, it seems that you've tried your best to give these two talented nim-rods a break on this album but just couldn't. I did not bother buying the album when it was released but I did pick up the cd-single for "Sock it to Me" (b-side "The Rain"). I never could get into Missy because her music became more annoying with each subsequent album. I actually liked the work Missy did with 702 and one hit wonder Gina Thompson.

  2. The "Sock It To Me" video was a play on the game Mega Man.

    That's all I got.

  3. why the fuck would i buy a piece of shit like this, comeon dude someone should of toldu that u were wasting ur time checking this trash out

  4. AnonymousJuly 25, 2009

    even back then her music sucked

  5. AnonymousMay 08, 2013

    Its like you геad mу mind!

    You seеm to know a lot about this, like you wrote the
    boοk in it or something. I thinκ that уou coulԁ do
    wіth a few piсs to drive thе meѕsagе hοme
    а bіt, but οthеr than that,
    this is magnifіcent blog. A gгeat reaԁ.

    I ωіll сertainly be back.

    Here is mу blοg post abrir cuenta facebook

  6. Timbaland's a flat out genius. so is Missy. In fact, Missy was so far ahead of her time that people now rhyme like Missy. Nicki, Lil Wayne... all that lazy random punchline-esque shit over a hot beat "who got the keys to my jeep" type of shit