I forgot about Missy Elliott and found her again in 2012.
I don’t know how it happened, exactly. I was living in Virginia when she was on the come-up, and I was obviously a fan back then. That whole little spiderweb she belonged to — Nicole Wray, Aaliyah, Timbaland, Magoo, and Skillz on the outskirts — was real interesting to me. Missy made songs that were good and catchy, undeniably so, until I decided she didn’t do that, after high school, and quit listening to her.
I didn’t miss too much, since my hiatus more or less corresponded with her own hiatus, but I look back at that hiatus as such a weird decision to make. Maybe it was the last vestiges of backpacking or something. “Rap music? That you can dance to?!”
I dunno and I don’t remember, in part because it was stupid. Missy brought something to rap for me that I’ve actually grown to sorely miss: dance numbers in music videos. Which sounds like damning with faint praise, but let’s think it through here.
Nobody dances angry. There’s not a Mean Mug Merengue. So a music video with a dance number is a music video that can’t be your typical hood rap video. It’s not just gonna be somebody’s cousin’s boyfriend’s sister twerking on the corner. You’re going to have choreography, several dancers, and a song that allows for dancing. A rap video with dancing ain’t the same as one with a bunch of dudes looking at a camera and throwing up signs.
A lot of the rap I’m into isn’t dance-ready. It’s too aggressive or it’s too weird. Missy and Timbaland, though, managed to make weird into an artform. I feel like he did a lot of his best work with her, and she with him. Missy’s been doing funny voices and mixing up her flows basically since she started, in addition to singing, so she can cover a wide part of the spectrum of rap music. She’s her own R&B collab, if she wants to be. She’s a powerhouse.
The dancing shows that rap is way bigger than the little boxes we tend to put it in. It’s not too long ago that we had a bunch of dudes dressed in identical jerseys doing the same jig onstage, but that fell off. You’re not gonna see Rick Ross getting his boogie on. Fat Joe doesn’t dance. He just pulls up his pants and does the Rockaway. But Missy? Missy’ll get down, and she’ll get down extra hard if you can throw some weird wire effects in there, too.
Missy Elliott makes playful music, is what I’m saying. Her joints exist to put a smile on your face and a pep in your step. And it’s contagious.
When’s the last time you heard “One Minute Man?” I’m thinking specifically of the version with Jay-Z and his semi-tongue-in-cheek ode to the wonders of premature ejaculation and denouncement of all that is Destiny’s Child in the world. Or really any version of the song, come to think of it. They’re all pretty fun.
Making a hit song about dudes not lasting long enough in bed is amazing. I love songs that feature dueling male/female vocalists. They usually — not always, but usually — end up being real funny and clever, and I like how they break down when you’re talking or singing with friends. It’s like how every dude will yell “WE WANT PRE-NUP!” when you do Kanye’s “Gold Digger,” but both sides get to get it in.
I don’t listen to enough smileyface music, and Missy brings some of the best of it. Even her little guest appearance on J Cole’s album, “Nobody’s Perfect?” It’s just a reminder that Missy’s dumb talented, and all she does is a chorus. I didn’t know I missed her until I heard her voice and was like “Oh, yeah. That’s right.”
Word is she’s got a new album in the works. Looking forward to it. Rap needs more Missy.