Album: Under Construction

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Album:

Under Construction

Artist: Missy Elliott
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Label: Elektra / Wea

Attention B-girls and boys: Missy Elliott is officially over it. Like her homegirl Mary J. Blige, the rap diva declares, “no more drama.” Time to get back to the essence. To that end, Under Construction bubbles over with a combination of ridiculously slamming beats and clever old-school references—not to mention a slew of guest stars. Based on the rhyme schematic from UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” and featuring Ms. Jade’s tight-laced drawl, “Funky Fresh Dressed” draws on several classics, including the Beasties’ “Paul Revere.” Missy croons and Jay-Z namedrops…

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Attention B-girls and boys: Missy Elliott is officially over it. Like her homegirl Mary J. Blige, the rap diva declares, “no more drama.” Time to get back to the essence. To that end, Under Construction bubbles over with a combination of ridiculously slamming beats and clever old-school references—not to mention a slew of guest stars. Based on the rhyme schematic from UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” and featuring Ms. Jade’s tight-laced drawl, “Funky Fresh Dressed” draws on several classics, including the Beasties’ “Paul Revere.” Missy croons and Jay-Z namedrops his way through the loose-limbed “Back in the Day.” Ludacris injects some new jack Southern flavor into the sinuous anti-hater’s anthem, “Gossip Folks.” “Work It” features a catchy chorus and an absolutely insane Timbaland track. As is to be expected, Aaliyah’s presence looms large over the proceedings, especially on the classic Misdemeanor-style hip-hop and R&B hybrid, “Nothing out There for Me.” Missy’s rap adlibs play second fiddle to the song’s lush vocals, as Beyoncé fills the diva role previously occupied by the late, great Aaliyah. —Rebecca Levine

“I wanna go back in time…” chants the final verse of “Back in the Day”. Time travel was certainly on Missy Elliott’s mind when she created her funky, old-school inspired Under Construction. Clearly affected by the death of her close friend, R&B superstar Aaliyah, it seems Missy has been dwelling on the big questions. She may still be “bling bling” but now she knows those rocks could be around a little longer than her.

The haters and the violence in the hip-hop community weren’t always there, she explains. Heavy stuff, but thankfully it hasn’t got Missy so down she has forgotten how to party. In fact Under Construction is a call for a return to the golden age of hip-hop: gun-free house parties where egos battled it out at the mic, everyone wore “British Knights and gold chains” and there was plenty of hip-hop you could dance to.

Missy and her long time co-producer Timbaland have eschewed some of the edgier beats of the previous album. Gone, for example, are the sparse tabla beats of “Get Ur Freak On” and instead we get funkier grooves and old school samples on the equally danceable “Bring the Pain” or the retro-sounding “Back in the Day”. There are also a couple of laidback R&B ballads and a great duet with Beyonce, “Nothing Out There for Me” (all about choosing your boyfriend over your friends). But don’t worry, Missy certainly hasn’t toned herself down artistically or lyrically. Just listen to the reversed samples on the massive single “Work It”, the dark, synthesised sound on “Slide” and the x-rated demands that always pepper her work. —Caroline Butler

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