Monday, November 25, 2002

like many, I was anxiously awaiting missy elliot's under construction, certain that this would be the year that a missy album matched her raw creativity and vast imagination. well... I'm still waiting for that.

for whatever reason, missy is a master of the single as an art form, but seems to have problems with full-lengths. I'm left dumbstruck by "work it," because I didn't think it possible for her to top "get ur freak on," and she makes it sounds so damned simple. on the album, though, "work it" is followed by "bring the pain," yet another sad method man collaboration (ripping rza's track from the original "bring the pain," too). that's followed by "gossip folks" featuring ludacris, which samples "double dutch bus" to obnoxious effect - and luda's verse is uncharacteristically dull. and would someone tell me why missy has to inform us that every single track is a "missy elliot exclusive"?

"back in the day" gets things back on track nicely. without sounding sonically retro, missy (and her partner-in-crime, timbaland) loops a capital-p-h-a-t bassline while she reminisces about ol' skool with the help of her pal jay-z (sweet verse: "'cause I kill at will, like solid water, dude, y'all niggas don't get it - kill at will, solid water, ice cube? [laughs]"). this one's got to be a future single. "pussycat" moves us into the non-packed-with-guests section of the album. it's got a nearly loose ends-esque backing track, all smooth, spare, and slick, with the faintest cushiony '80s synths in the distance. predictably, the song's about pudenda. the "bob george" vocal effects in the bridge are a marvelous finishing touch.

oddly, her retro-ish track is the subsequent "go to the floor," made on an epmd-dry drum track, as musically uninteresting as that might sound (I've never quite gotten why epmd were so lauded; most of erick sermon's productions leave me stone-cold). "play that beat"'s sole highlight is the use of a cat cry replacing what I assume is the word "pussy" (much like the elephant in "work it"). tweet sings the chorus on "nothing out there for me," a simplistic song about why missy has no reason to want to leave home. "ain't that funny" is emblematic of the problems under construction has, and sadly, most of them revolve around the production: tim and missy have become so enamored of a hard, technoid sound that they seem resistant to let go of it most of the time. it was initially novel, but now it sounds more bland and dated than anything. [think of what missy could do working with the streets, or ms. dynamite's producer, even - and then wonder with me why she hasn't experimented with uk garage yet.]

missy elliot is clearly one of the most inventive minds working in music today. unfortunately, her albums have yet to thoroughly showcase that fact - until she releases a single collection, at least. or maybe until her fifth album.

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