Missy Elliott - Under Construction | RECORD STORE DAY
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Thank God for Missy Elliott. Where most superstars mark their ascension bygetting more self-important and pompous—witness Eminem of late, or Metallica,or Kid Rock, ad nauseam—Missy insists on getting more playful. If thismeans she risks silliness in the process, so be it: "Don't I looklike a Halle Berry post-ah?" she asks on "Work It," the leadsingle from the new Under Construction. Well, just because you lost alot of weight doesn't necessarily make you a pin-up overnight. But hey—it'sthe thought that counts, and I'll take it over, oh, I don't know,"I'm persecuted by everybody." Later in the same song, Missytells Prince he can't get her to change her name (ho!) and invites us to"imagine Lil' Kim dating a pastor." One song later, Jay-Z declares,"Me and Missy the new tag-team," before swooping in with the goofiest,most obvious punchline imaginable: "Whoomp! There it is!"

Clearly, Elliott is still high on… er… life, or whatever it was thatmade last year's Miss E… So Addictive such a relentless up.(Three guesses what that substance might have been. Hint: it's in the title.)And she can get all of her guests into the mood, too, as skillfully deployedcameos from Method Man, Ludacris, Ms. Jade and Beyoncé Knowles also prove.But rather than shooting even further into the future than Miss E did, thistime around Missy and beatsmith Timbaland choose to cut the new style with ahealthy dose of old. Under Construction plays tricks with ideas of "oldschool" and "new school" and "next-level s***" so thoroughlythat they level the playing field. We get plenty of retro references, particularlyon "Back in the Day," the aforementioned Jay-Z duet, and "FunkyFresh Dressed," which samples MC Lyte (from "Self Destruction")and whose second half swipes its beat from the Beastie Boys' "PaulRevere." There's also a major electro feel to the record—thebeats of about half the songs could be said to qualify as refurbishings of thatrecently hip genre. But whereas the majority of nu-electro evokes a retro-futurism("look how weird we used to think the future would be, and how limited"),Tim and Missy make it sound like an actual, plausible sonic tomorrowland.

Most of the songs on Under Construction are linked by Missy talking, mainlyabout the methods behind the record. She wants to take it back to when hip-hopwas simple—fancy that; Aaliyah's death is an acknowledged reason forthis. This is somewhat distracting, but it doesn't kill the mood. If anything,its straightforwardness makes Missy even more endearing. You've gotta loveanyone who not only gets Beyoncé "Independent Woman" Knowlesto subtly enact a role-reversal in "Nothing Out There for Me," butto let Missy scold her for staying home with her boyfriend instead of goingout with her. After all, who could resist partying with the queen of pop music?