The response was rabid when Missy Elliott made a surprise appearance at the Super Bowl half-time show in February. The 44-year-old rapper – whose last album, ‘The Cookbook’, came out 10 years ago – performed her three megahits ‘Get Ur Freak On’, ‘Work It’ and ‘Lose Control’, leveling the entire stadium, and sales of her records duly shot up a staggering 996%.
Missy’s absence has been forced upon her by Graves Disease, but if the response to the Super Bowl proves anything, it’s that there is clearly still clearly an appetite for the multi-platinum pop genius. Her 1997 breakthrough hit ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’, a languid slice of futuristic R&B, sounded like nothing else and the video, featuring Missy wearing a load of weird inflatable outfits, introduced her as a pop star like no other.
Now Melissa Arnette Elliott (her real name) is back to remind us how badly we missed her. ‘WTF (Where They From’), a bruising hip-hop banger with frenetic guest vocals from Pharrell, comes off as a determined attempt to reclaim the pop landscape. She’s an all-time great and she is not fucking about. It’s got the inventively outrageously lyrics we loved her for the first time around (“I’m a Big Mac, make you wanna eat that”) and her delivery is as inventive as ever, she rides the beat on the chorus by elongating the words ‘tongue’ and ‘fun’. It’s hard to think of anyone else capable of such an idiosyncratic flow.
Only Pharrell’s turn as a badass rapper fails to convince. He spits, “Lyrically I’m Optimus Prime” but thoughts still turn to your nan tapping her foot to his insipid chart-humper ‘Happy’. Overall though, this is enough to make you long for Elliott’s rumoured new album.“How they do where ya from?” she asks in the chorus. The answer: not like this – no-one does it like Missy Elliot.