Missy Elliott

Miss E...So Addictive (The Gold Mind/Elektra)

Imbued with old-school flavor and the weirdest production she's yet committed to record, Missy makes a great leap forward here. Where Supa Dupa Fly was solid if not stunning, and Da Real World stagnated somewhat (though it was spiked with a few great cuts), Miss E...So Addictive is a varied work that lays out Elliott's most convincing statements yet. It also finds her standing tall with a steady grasp on her priorities.

First and foremost, she's still concerned with pleasures of the flesh. Though a relationship would be nice -- and when a good one's broken off she's not quick to let it go -- she's still apt to "make him sing high soprano" and send him on his way if he proves to be a "One Minute Man." She's also added chemical (as opposed to herbal) intake to her list of acceptable pleasures: On the album's first track, you are encouraged to consume her music in place of "liquor or weed or X, whatever does you the best." From there, Elliot dives in and out of the club scene, fooling around on "X-tasy" and finding that maybe love isn't the only drug she's interested in. Her party-hearty themes always seem to circle back to the idea of finding the right person; Roxy Music worked a similar metaphor.

Missy's other primary theme -- boasting about what a badass she is -- comes in second here. With So Addictive as evidence, though, she's got every right to take on all comers. Producer Timbaland's music -- both beats and melodies -- is the most catchy, consistent and varied he's ever put out at full-length. From '80s keyboard-laden jams like "Old School Joint" to the potential club hit "4 My People" to the truly oddball lead single, "Get UR Freak On," Timba's all over the place, even powering the ballads with his trademark off-center rhythms, perfectly timed sound effects and strange samples (one sent me scrambling to my Residents records to find out where he'd gotten a keyboard sound).

But to throw all the praise on Timbaland would be a mistake comparable to crediting Keith Richards with all the Stones' successes. Missy isn't just a hired voice: She's someone who collaborates with him effortlessly and regularly, whose natural rhythms are right in sync with his. And her vocal performance here is a hip-hop tour de force: shifting tone, timbre and mood at will, throwing unexpected rhymes and screams in all over the place. She sings on most tracks in addition to, or even instead of, rapping, proving that she's become a great vocalist. Standout tracks like "Lick Shots," "Scream," "Whatcha Gon' Do" and the weirdly harmonized "X-Tasy" are among the best hip-hop performances out there. Simply, So Addictive is a superb show.

 
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