I've figured it out, people. You two have glanced at the album cover above and have already decided that you could give a shit about the subject of today's post. In fact, you two may have dismissed it entirely based on the fact that today's subject is a woman, and absolutely nobody has requested that I write about any female artist in the past few years, aside from all of that bullshit about Iggy Azalea because people want to see me trash her work, which would actually require me to want to listen to her work, and I just don't have the time or the patience for that, folks. I have too much on my plate, I treasure my ears, I haven't really liked any of her other stuff so what's the point, Charli XCX is the only good thing about "Fancy", blah blah blah, other excuses.
But the subject of today's post isn't someone who's buying into the pop music world of today via three-dollar beats and the audio equivalent of blackface: no, instead, today I'm writing about a woman who legitimately changed the way pop music sounded in the 1990's and into the new milennium. And I mean she changed it multiple times: Melissa "Missy 'Misdemeanor'" Elliott and her partner in crime, producer-slash-sometimes-rapper Tim "Timbaland" Mosely, are largely responsible for the risks taken on radio airwaves over the past eighteen or so years that you bastards merely take for granted today.
Missy's third album, Miss E... So Addictive, which is admittedly a very fucking stupid title, caused cash registers from all over to chirp, moving over five million units worldwide. It features multiple hit songs, although some of them clicked more overseas than they did in Missy's home country. It also landed her two Grammy awards, one of which was for an album track that was never even released as a single, so obviously someone was paying attention to Elliott's work.
Riding off of a wave of goodwill generated from her first two albums and her multiple cameos and songwriting jags for other artists, Missy Elliott and Timbaland set off to change the aural landscape yet again, bending the will of hip hop and R&B to serve their merry whims. Timmy produces nearly the entire project, but this time around Elliott co-produced every track, using her pen to wrap her thoughts about love, sex, love and sex, fucking, love, and love of fucking around the beats within. Okay, so Missy Elliott may be a pretty good songwriter, but as an artist, she knows what she likes, and tends to stick with a limited amount of topics: you can't say some of your favorite rappers don't do the same.
The instrumentals, while not quite as revolutionary as Timbaland's past and future work, still come across as the type of music Missy and Timbo wanted to hear at their favorite club, with a lot of catchy hooks and eclectic drum samples bouncing around the motherfucker. The guest list is primarily limited to Missy and Timbaland's extended family, which is the only reason Ginuwine appears on here, although in their short time within the industry they formed a lot of lasting friendships, so the outsiders that pop up on Miss E... So Addictive are mostly A-list material.
And also Da Brat.
1. ...SO ADDICTIVE (INTRO) (FEAT. TWEET)
Not only was this intro unnecessary, it also inadvertently underscores the fact that Missy and Timbaland are actually the source of all of the problems we're all having with radio today, since everyone is still trying to sound exactly like them. I must note that they were innovative, though, and Timbo still has his moments even today, so that counts for something.
2. DOG IN HEAT (FEAT. METHOD MAN & REDMAN)
Timbaland lays down a funky-ass instrumental for his host, but the first (rapping) voice you hear on “Dog In Heat” belongs to Reggie Noble, whose flow is so elastic that he fits over any beat. This ode to the men who are dogs and the woman who loves them isn't great (Missy's first sung line is, “When you come home from work / I'ma make you do more work”, which I understand, but, um, huh?), but it's enjoyable enough, and the combined forces of Red and Meth elevate “Dog In Heat:, even though the pair don't actually share any screen time on the track. There are worse ways to kick things off, I suppose.
3. ONE MINUTE MAN (FEAT. LUDACRIS)
Missy Elliott recorded three different versions of “One Minute Man”, two of which appear on Miss E... So Addictive. Why she decided that a song decrying premature ejaculation required so many different interpretations I have no clue, but it's still one of the best tracks on here. Our host's vocals set the listener up for an entirely different type of song, but once the rappers step into the booth (in this case, Ludacris), the paradigm shifts and the track realizes its full potential. Timbo's beat (co-produced with Big Tank) is simple and gets to the point with only a hint of trickery, and Luda has a flow nearly as malleable as Reggie Noble, so everyone ends up sounding pretty good. I had forgotten this song was over four minutes long, though: there's no excuse for that shit.
4. LICK SHOTS
The video for “Get Ur Freak On”, Missy's second-biggest hit (“Work It”, from the album that followed MissE... So Addictive, actually charted much higher for her), ends with the chorus to “Lick Shots”, so it's strange to hear “Lick Shots” before that particular song on the actual album. Missy's antagonistic rhymes are hardly intimidating or even all that convincing, but she's not really saying anything different from any other rapper out there, and at least she switches up her flow frequently enough. The only memorable aspect of this track is Timbaland's beat, though, and I'm mainly just talking about how, toward the end, Timmy fucks with the conventions of the instrumental, as he tends to do.
5. GET UR FREAK ON
As mentioned above, Missy Elliott's second-biggest hit, and it's just as catchy (and unnecessarily vulgar, as I hadn't heard the album version in quite some time and her curses and racial slurs threw me off for some stupid reason, as though I hadn't listened to rap music in years or something) as it was back when it blew the fuck up in 2001. The beat runs at the same tempo as Bubba Sparxxx's “Ugly”, which is probably why Timbaland saw fit to combine the two tracks at one point, but it sounds so good that it could easily be re-released today to an equal amount of fanfare, if not more. Missy commissioned an ill-advised remix to this song featuring a Nelly Furtado guest spot that threatened to hit the track's self-destruct button, but even that version is notable for introducing Furtado to Timbaland, as they would later team up to create much better offerings. This paragraph could have been longer, but you two should already know what “Get Ur Freak On” sounds like. If you're in the minority, then you may as well abandon this post now, because it doesn't get any less esoteric.
6. SCREAM A.K.A. ITCHIN' (FEAT. TIMBALAND)
Hardly what anyone would ever mistake for a “good” song (unless you're the committee that awards Grammys to artists, as this would be the aforementioned non-single that copped our host a statue), but it primarily features Missy rapping instead of singing (with Timbaland performing a (lazy) hook), so if you have some sort of Missy obsession or fetish where you absolutely must listen to every track she has ever blessed with her rhyming persona, have at it. Timmy's instrumental is okay, but not great, and our host never strays too far from one of her go-to topics, how she pleases her men. Not much to see here, folks.
7. OLD SCHOOL JOINT (FEAT. TWEET)
Most of Missy's catalog consists of songs where she shares her dual obsessions with both sex and stability (economically, anyway, not necessarily romantically, as all she merely wants is a man who will “keep [her] pockets tight” and her “looking right”), and “Old School Joint” is no exception. The reason this track works so well today is nostalgia: Timmy's beat accurately recreates one of the old school joints Missy praises during the song's intro (the sample from Parliament's “Flashlight” doesn't hurt, either). Guest crooner Tweet doesn't do a whole lot, but she still adds to the overall experience. A nice throwback you two probably never even knew existed.
8. TAKE AWAY (FEAT. GINUWINE & KAMEELAH WILLIAMS)
Timbaland mashes together his first two stars, Missy Elliott and Elgin “Ginuwine” “My song 'Pony' was in Magic Mike and the royalties from that are the only thing feeding my family” Lumpkin, for this love song, which everyone involved (save for Kameelah Williams, from the defunct girl group 702, who only really ad-libs anyway) needed to sound romantic for any of this to take off. “Take Away” is ultimately cold and robotic, and not just because of the robotic singing during the third quarter. Missy's vocals sound fine, but there wasn't anything for me to take away from this experience. See what I did there?
9. 4 MY PEOPLE (FEAT. EVE)
Wikipedia claims that “4 My People” was an international hit, which may explain why there was an official remix from the British dance duo Basement Jaxx commissioned. As a song for the “motherfuckin' club heads”, it's alright, but Timbaland and Missy have both produced better. Timmy's instrumental thuds in a headache-inducing manner while our host bounces around as she is prone to do (guest star Eve fares a bit better during the seemingly fifteen seconds she actually rhymes), but none of this shit really works for me. In fact I only remember “4 My People” because, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the States, Missy altered the lyrics of the hook, switching from “for my party people” to the “American people”, which I always took as an odd example of propaganda, but at least her heart was in the right place.
10. BUS-A-BUS (INTERLUDE) (FEAT. BUSTA RHYMES)
It still concerns me that Busta Rhymes (who provided a similar interlude on Missy's debut album) has yet to tackle a Timbaland beat of his own. Wouldn't he be one of the better candidates to do so? Even today?
11. WHATCHA GON' DO (FEAT. TIMBALAND)
Unlike some of the other songs on Miss E... So Addictive, Timbaland officially earns an actual guest-starring credit on “Whatcha Gon' Do” because he actually contributes verses, as opposed to disjointed hooks and ad-libs. Timmy's instrumental is darker than most of this project, acting as a late-game bridge between Miss E... So Addictive and its predecessor, Da Real World, and Missy's verses are aggressive and ring false (does anyone really believe Missy fucking Elliott carries a pistol on her side at all times?). Still, I liked this song back in the day, and it still sounds entertaining today, because I like the shit-talking Missy persona, and Timbaland's cockiness actually suits the beat fairly well. I've always wondered why this was never officially released as a single.
12. STEP OFF (FEAT. TWEET)
Missy and guest star Tweet warn other women to stay away from Missy's man. But if her man is sleeping with other women in the first place, shouldn't she have some words with, I don't know, her man? Wouldn't that be the problem right there? Anyway, this song was boring.
Missy opens “X-Tasy” by quietly instructing the listener to “read between the lines”. Which means that you can interpret this song as being about either popping molly or about the natural high you feel right after climaxing. Either way, neither experience is actually as dull as this song manages to be. Come back down to earth, Melissa.
14. SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! (FEAT. DA BRAT & MS. JADE)
I prefer the shit-talking Missy persona, as I've mentioned before, so this ridiculously-named song is more up my alley, as our host teams up with an equally-aggressive Da Brat and Timbaland's (former) protégé Ms. Jade, while Timmy lays down an interesting beat (and ad-libs on the hook, weirdly sounding like Ludacris for a second). There isn't much to the track, but it's not like every decent rap song requires dense layering or anything. Not bad.
15. I'VE CHANGED (INTERLUDE) (FEAT. LIL' MO)
Kind of strange, in that this interlude is really the final song on Miss E... So Addictive. Why end the evening with an interlude? At least Missy herself grows sick of Lil' Mo's singing and cuts the shit off herself: that was both mean-spirited and hilarious.
The following song is labeled as a bonus track.
16. ONE MINUTE MAN (REMIX) (FEAT. JAY-Z)
Basically the exact same song as before, except Jay-Z appears where there was once a Ludacris verse. Hova's mere presence doesn't automatically elevate the song: the first version was pretty good as it was. However, Shawn brings a different level of cockiness to the track, riffing on his own “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)”, kinds-sorta dissing the Destiny's Child song “Independent Women Part 1”, and, famously, betting Missy and producer Timbaland that he would nail his verse in one take, a bet he won but still hasn't received payment for, as is my understanding.
On the CD version, there are twelve blank audio tracks, and then the following hidden program begins. (I'm assuming the digital download version skips all of that "blank track" shit.)
HIGHER GROUND (PRELUDE)
Introduces the actual bonus track while explaining why it will sound nothing like the rest of the album, subject matter-wise. Well, thank you for the warning, Melissa.
HIGHER GROUND (FEAT. DORINDA CLARK, KAREN CLARK SHEARD, KIM BURRELL, MARY MARY, & YOLANDA ADAMS)
Missy uses this hidden track to find her spiritual side, which is a far cry from the sex, trash-talking, and partying found elsewhere on the project. There isn't anything objectionable about “Higher Ground” or any of the many guest stars, but the lack of flash also translates into a lack of anything for the listener to care about. It is what it is.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Either Missy Elliott is your thing or she isn't: there doesn't appear to be any middle ground. Miss E... So Addictive is a natural extension of Da Real World, her darker sophomore effort where she spent all of her time complaining about other acts biting her style, except this time around, our host has lightened up and has accepted her place within our chosen genre's pantheon and understands that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so why not give folks some more shit to copy, right? One doesn't go into this kind of album looking for mind-blowing lyrics, so in that respect, Missy does okay. However, one does go into this kind of album hoping the beats will knock, and aside from a few missteps, Timbaland does not disappoint. A lot of folks seem to have forgotten the time when Timbaland and fellow Virginia duo The Neptunes dominated radio airwaves, or they feel that admitting to liking their work was tantamount to selling out. Well, fuck that shit: I like early Neptunes work. I like Timbaland in general. You don't change the music landscape multiple times because of a fluke. Timbo's work is the reason to get into Miss E... So Addictive: Missy's writing and vocals are just an added bonus. And both are very aware of when to step aside to let their guests run wild: Ludacris and Jay-Z put in some of their best cameo work on here.
BUY OR BURN: It depends. If you've let enough time pass since you've last heard "Get Ur Freak On" that you're willing to appreciate how well-crafted it is as a pop song, then pick this shit up, as you won't be disappointed. If you wish to stand behind your misguided belief that Timbaland is the reason you don't listen to the radio anymore, then this won't change your mind. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth your time.
BEST TRACKS: “Whatcha Gon' Do”; “Get Ur Freak On”; “One Minute Man” (both the Ludacris and Jay-Z versions); “Old School Joint”; “Slap! Slap! Slap!”
B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “ONE MINUTE MAN” (FEAT. LUDACRIS & TRINA)
You may recall that I wrote about there being three different versions of “One Minute Man”. This second remix revisits the Ludacris take, except it now also finds room to fit in a sort-of explicit guest verse from Trina. Remember when Trina was more of a big deal in our chosen genre, and not necessarily because of her rhymes? (Also, remember the rumors of Missy Elliott and Trina having hooked up?) I suppose it would be difficult for any female rapper to compete in today's hip hop market against the overt sexuality of Nicki Minaj, but still, I'd like to see someone actually try. Anyway, Trina's verse is okay, and Missy obviously liked it enough to include her contribution in the official video for “One Minute Man” (although that may have just been an excuse to put Trina in a French maid's outfit), but was there really a reason to release so many different versions? Judging from how good this sounds, perhaps there was. (There's also a megamix out there, easily accessible through Google, that features all three guest rappers alongside our host, if you're inclined to be efficient like that.)
Read up on Missy Elliott by clicking here.