To E or Not to E

The making of architectonic social music. A commonplace in the African American musical canon. Yet there are few qualified master builders around today. Before Missy and Tim hit the scene hiphop soul meant Mary J. Blige having pitch issues over an old r&b sample. After them it meant drum programming that had as much spontaneity and unpredictable nervous energy as a Redman-Method Man duet. If that wasn't enough, Missy's supadupa smoove and tight two-, three-, and four-part harmonies effortlessly made sense rather than incongruity among all her hard rhyming—her vocal obbligatos playing a civilizing role akin to that thriving community garden we like to throw up in the vacant lot on your hardscrabble tenement block. Just like the U.K.'s junglists did the math that allowed halftime diva licks to trippingly flow across triple-time more-mutant-than-human digital drum densities, Missy and Tim made a mix of attack-dog lyrics and très-femme vocals seem as right and proper as the union of butter Ginuwine and sandpaper Solé. You got to imagine Diana Ross snuggled up boa down with James Brown back in that day to appreciate how rad Tim and Missy's recombinant creations be. Dexter Gordon maintaining his lordlygossamer elegancefinesse in the company of the Jimmy Castor Bunch. Jelly Roll Morton revisited on the modern slang tip. Some arty abstract bourgie thuglife shat. Noh theatre meets techno in the backseat of a Cash Money cruiser. As experimental as Black beat science gets but clubbable too. Willem de Kooning reborn as a poor baby seal, if you catch my drift. So what, ain't nothing moving but the music if you don't.

As always, Missy's got a steamy superfriends sundae thing going on here: Redman-Method Man naturally spraying track two, "Dog in Heat," with sybaritic Nighttown narratives. Ludacris advertising his tantric method on the album's first shot at "One Minute Man." Rudeass Jigga wham-bammin' the script on the remix version, declaring the one-minute man the real Casanova. As be the case every time Eve gets with Missy she sounds more excitable on the techno drama "4 My People" than she does on her own charming disc—Missy being the only woman in hiphop who makes it appear she's doing her royalty cameos a favor.

Musicality and musical personality on Missy and Tim's level is a rarity in black music today. As with Monk, Prince, Lester Bowie, it's enough for her to exhale on a track to give it some giggle and jiggle. Those who also appreciate Missy's less avant-garde side will dig the ballads and the skits here. The latter achieve maximum hilaritocity on "I've Changed—Interlude," where Missy shuts down an overemoting Lil Mo', accusing her of "trying to raise money for some new choir robes" before pulling the plug. The ballad side is heard to best effect on "Moving On," the aforementioned unlisted track 30, a waltztime church processional featuring those divine miracles the Clark Sisters.

The woodwork squeaks and out comes the freak.
photo: Nitin Vadukul
The woodwork squeaks and out comes the freak.


Missy Elliott
Miss E . . . So Addictive
The Gold Mind, Inc./Elektra

Decades ago, when EW&F ruled the world of pop, Pablo Guzman asked Maurice White his opinion of George Clinton. White praised the Doctor for possessing the rarefied ability, like his own, to credibly compose in any genre of American song. On So Addictive Missy and Tim once again prove themselves just as able to renovate and innovate in varied songforms. But whatever gifts they may possess for composing third-eye-opening lyrics à la Clinton or White remain hidden, perhaps even forbidden by their mercantile instincts. Their skills at crafting secular inspirations for release and redemption remain nonpareil among their peer group. Riddle me this, though: Would it not be easier for a GOD-fearing, Jesus-loving hiphop/pop demigoddess to enter the kingdom of heaven without a tab of E in her rhyming dictionary?

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