Pills and thrills from hip-hop's First Lady
Never let it be said that Missy Elliott is one-dimensional. At the end of her third and most adventurous album, after she’s bigged up America’s nation of E-heads, after Ludacris and Jay-Z have given advice on sustaining erections and gang-bangs in the twisted reprise of ‘One Minute Man’, she locks the druggers and the bad bros out the studio and, wait for it, turns to God.
“A lot of people have criticised me for the kind of music I sing, but see, that don’t change the belief that I have… Please don’t judge me if I’m not in church on Sunday”, she gushes, introducing the generic happy clapper ‘Higher Ground’. Its a natural thing, no doubt, that after you’ve feminised hip-hop and made pop into a plaything for R&B with ‘Supa Dupa Fly’, bonded with Eminem, helped out the A-list of US soul and rap, and gone clubbing with Janet Jackson, you’d feel some leverage with God was a possibility.
Missy needn’t have worried. Having experienced the effects of LSD on soul (see Sly Stone, The Temptations, George Clinton) The Lord is well known to be a fan of headfuck funk and thus likely to appreciate the genius at work in the sensually deconstructed mindgame beats of ‘Miss E…’. Elliott and co-tripper Timbaland expain the album’s Ecstasy content as metaphorical, but ‘E’s progression from ‘Da Real World’ into an unreal universe of heightened lust and pilled-up-over-the-faders phuture sonics, is mostly highly convincing.
Tasteful porno groans are not new to Missy, but sex themes loom larger. Brilliant opener ‘Dog In Heat’ sees Redman and Method Man growling about “doing it on your daddy’s front lawn” over supersleazy nu-Prince funk. ‘One Minute Man’ teaches TLC harmony tricks and advises on keepin’ going all night, which is exactly what two-thirds of ‘Miss E…’ manages.
Through ‘Lick Shots” virtuoso cyber-rap beats and ‘crazy ho’ posturing, the ornately minimal tablas’n’jungle of ‘Get Ur Freak On’ (nu-hip-hop’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) and the kinky surreal dance cuts ‘Scream AKA Itching’ and ‘Old School Joint’ (Five Star get shagged by Funkadelic), ‘E…’ is priapic with fresh techniques.
Missy is not infallible. Ginuwine’s ballad ‘Take Away’ is far from cutting-edge, there’s some gratuitous Busta Rhymes, and no Eminem style stand-out contribution (Da Brat is nastily effective). But as a multi-millionaire, about to work with Jagger, it’s a blessing that the surrogate mum to the hip-hop youth of America is out there pushing for sounds as deranged, commercial, newly kinetic, and socially risque as those licking your ears in ‘X-tasy’ and ‘Slap! Slap! Slap!’.
She’s still got the keys to the Avant-Krunk Jeep.