By Cammy Thomas
“It’s been a long time she shouldn’t have left us, without a dope beat to step to, step to, step to, step to…”
In the esteemed words of Missy Elliott’s long-time friend, collaborator, and beast of all beat makers of the 1990’s – present day, Timbaland’s opening lyrics on Aaliyah’s seminal hit ‘Try Again’, have come full circle and now apply to legendary rapper, Missy Elliott. It has been 14 long years without Missy’s imagination and creativity, an artist so unique that when her first album ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ dropped way back in 1997, it was clear Missy and Timbaland did not just make music, they moulded music, transforming it and taking it to the outer reaches of the solar system, to become the boundary breakers you see stood before you today. Their futuristic, Sci Fi lilt, off kilter rhythms, set the template for many artists who superseded them in the late 90’s and 2000’s, with their sound often imitated but never duplicated.
We haven’t even got to Missy’s otherworldly music videos to accompany the unique and kooky brilliance of the sound Timbaland and Missy created. To put it simply – A Missy Elliott music video was an event. When Missy dropped the iconic visuals to ‘Sock It 2 Me’ in 1997, the premise being Missy as a super hero floating around in space with Lil Kim as her side kick trying to escape the villainous clutches of the antagonists played by Timbaland and Da Brat, then there was her unforgettable video for ‘Beep Me 911’ feat. 702, where she introduced the world to never seen before visual effects in music videos (via video director, Hype Williams technical skills), such as stop time animation and the now infamous fish eye camera lens, you could almost feel the world grind to an abrupt halt on its axis as we all stood agog, transfixed in wide eyed wonder watching these aliens transforming the face of hip hop, as they became visionaries for daring to play against the rules and consistently pushing their creativity, with each album and video release becoming more colossal than the last, securing Missy’s eventual indoctrination into the Hip Hop hall of fame.
Melissa Arnette Elliott was a MISfit long before she came at us and changed the game globally with her mischievous persona and musicality. Missy was often told by music execs in her early career that she didn’t fit the look of the R&B superstars surrounding her, and was unlikely to achieve commercial success like her counterparts. Hearing these critiques only pushed her harder, to not only create her own lane, but she designed and carved out a maze of paths all taking differing directions, twisting into undiscovered sonic landscapes. Missy’s boldness and desire to stand out from the crowd saw her doubters leave their own lanes to come and parade down the paths she had constructed where they could find, the hypnotic singing of ‘Hot Boyz’, the empowering rap showcased on ‘She’s A Bitch’ and the pounding bass lines of ‘Pass That Dutch.’ Missy Elliott represents success in face of adversity, she represents triumph over typecasting, but most of all Missy Elliott has taught us it’s ok to be different and you don’t have to change the person you are to succeed in your chosen craft, you just have to have an abundance of self-belief, work hard and be unapologetically; you.
Missy’s music has been a part of my life from my late teens – she was there when I had my first girls holiday, she was there when I was in the talking phase to ‘the guy you’d always liked but didn’t know if he liked you back’, she was there at the parties and the after parties, heck she was even there for the breakups! Such is the diversity and range of Missy’s music, there is a song to mark every occasion, scenario or life event. There are not many artists we go on a journey with and grow up alongside them via their music, but having all 6 of Missy Elliott’s full length albums, in physical copies (they are collectors’ items now!)
Missy is one of those rare artists who has sound tracked my life, and the lives of many others around the world over the past 20+ years, which is why we are all GASSED! HYPE! ELATED and ESCTATIC! That after years of fans suggesting to the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA’S), that Missy should be considered as the recipient of the Michael Jackson music video vanguard award, we the fans finally get to see Missy Elliott become the first woman in hip hop to receive the award for the innovation and imagination she has gifted us with for over 2 decades, and I cannot think of anyone more deserving (except for Busta, but we gon’ handle that next year!) And that’s not all, in celebration of her legendary status becoming further solidified in popular culture, Missy has released 5, yes FIVE hot new jams for us to dance to on the aptly named, ‘Iconology’ EP.
This is not a test! Missy really has given us a fresh body of work for the first time in 14 years, with each track seasoned with secret ingredients from her very own personal cook book. When blended together all the differing flavours she samples from different eras of her career, marinade effortlessly until we reach full flavour of – The icon that is Missy. Iconology’s lead track ‘Throw It Back’ showcases Missy’s weird and wonderful concoctions we’ve all grown to know and love. The bass is pulsating and driving, peppered with cow bells and air horns which instantly takes me back to the old school lovers rock instrumentals and the blaring air horns of dancehall classics, these nostalgic elements show Missy came to do as the title of the track suggests, throw it back! The double entendre of the track’s title reminds us of how much Missy likes to dance, and luckily there is a stunning visual to accompany the track where you can watch Missy throw it back with her donk-a-donk-donk! Missy’s tone on ‘Throw It Back’ is low and seductive matching the spell binding vibe of the song. Stand out lyrics – “I did records for tweet, before y’all could even tweet” Tweet of course being just one of many protégée’s Missy steered to super stardom.
The dancehall air horns stay for the second track on the E.P ‘Cool Off’ which is a good job, because they became SO addictive on the previous track, it’s only right they should stick around for a lil while longer to keep the party lit! ‘Cool off’ follows the drum patterns of 1980’s and 1990’s hip hop, which Def Jam helped to pioneer and is reminiscent of their artist, LL cool J’s early albums, there is also a feel of 2 live crew within the call and command aspect of the track, as Missy instructs over the air horns to “Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it!” before telling us to rest and cool off. The track is frantic, hectic and a certified rump shaker. It’s the perfect track to twerk, krump or stomp to. The third track on the superb ‘Iconology’ ‘Drip Demeanour’ feat. Sum1 (yes my nose touched down on my tablet to check I didn’t read sum 41!!) ‘Drip Demeanour’ celebrates Missy’s sexual urges and high sex drive, which she has never been shy of sharing on songs throughout her career, ‘One Minute Man’ anyone?! This track is drip droppin’ in rivers of sauce, ensuring you float away on Missy’s sensual lyrics “I open up my candy shop, my panties drop, you see what I got, I got the strawberries and berries, got chocolate it’s nice, but in the box”, we love a sexually confident queen! Sum 1’s lyrics are sweeter than honey and heightens the sexpedition both artists take us on.
Iconology’s penultimate track is like the ‘tails’ of a coin to the previous tracks’ ‘heads.’ ‘Why I Love You’ reminds us what a great singer Missy Elliott is and enforces the fact her roots are in gospel and R&B, where she honed her singing skills in the R&B group – Sista. This track is heartfelt and honest and explores a woman’s tendency to put up with crap from a man, when her love for him is so strong. The instrumental is minimal allowing Missy’s voice to shine, the barber shop quartet in the background evokes misty eyed nostalgia, and the style in which Missy delivers her lyrics creates an old school R&B / blues number full of woe, and lovelorn lyrics. The last track on ‘Iconology’ is an acapella version of ‘Why I Still Love You’, which gives us Missy’s voice stripped back and bare, and it is here the honesty and sincerity of the song is amplified. And there you have it, an iconic EP, from an innovative, imaginative, inventor and instigator, with a career spanning 25 years of constantly pushing the limits of creativity – Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott. We salute you, now go get you your moon man!!
*WATCH* the brand new *VIDEO* from Missy Elliott below – ‘Throw It Back’