First things first, kids. I made a pretty brutal error in my Jay-Z review (just click on the drop-down menu at the bottom of this page to access it, along with all my other reviews here on 411 ). It was not Mary J. Blige on the hook of A Dream. It was Biggie’s ex-wife, Faith Evans. The two sound nothing alike and I apologize for the goof. Thanks to (among others) “Cookie”, “E.I.” and “DannyGreat1” for the correction.
Now that we’re through with the mea culpa portion of the show, let’s get on with the review. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott dropped her first major studio joint in 1997 with the best selling Supa Dupa Fly. Since then, not everyone has felt Missy’s approach, myself included. She made her mainstream debut during hip-hop’s so-called “shiny suit” era. At the time, it seemed like everyone was following Puff Daddy and Mase’s lead by emphasizing outrageous outfits, toothy grins and dancing over lyrical content.
It’s unfortunate that, for many heads, Missy Elliott will always be the fat chick in the garbage bag jump suit from one of her early videos. After listening to her latest piece, Under Construction, it’s obvious she’s gone to a great deal of work to win over her haters. In one of 2002’s best efforts, Missy crafts an album that is a near-perfect fusion of old school and new school.
The album’s first single, Work It, has deservingly been in heavy rotation on radio and MTV. It’s an infectious party cut that toes the line between rambunctious and raunchy. The second single Gossip Folks should be just as big a hit. Missy tips her hat to the old Double Dutch Bus classic on this one, while venting on rumors and hearsay. Ludacris pops in for a hilariously off-kilter cameo, as well.
The entire album is filled with references (spoken and unspoken) to those who came before Missy. A partial list of those to be listening for are The Beastie Boys, UTFO and Chuck D. Timbaland obviously has as much love for the old school as Missy. What separates Timbaland from the likes of Dr. Dre is the fact that while Dre seems content to dispense variations of his sounds from his past albums, Timbaland is evolving with the times.
A perfect example of this is found on tracks like Funky Fresh Dressed and Ain’t That Funny. These tracks are dripping with a 1980s retro urban vibe, but they’re both given a 2003 cutting-edge feel. Missy even gets the chance to show off her producing skills, as she co-produces nearly every track and even gets solo credits for the funked-out Slide and one of the albums only weak tracks, Pussycat. While the beat is solid, the subject matter would’ve sounded better coming from Lil’ Kim or Foxy Brown.
The best track here is the Jay-Z blessed Back in the Day. Missy, as she frequently does, sings the hook while calling out to hip-hop’s yesteryear. She manages to squeeze in memories of the cabbage patch and house parties as well shout outs to nearly every hip-hop pioneer from the early days. In turn, Jigga shows love to more recent rap icons, while taking a swipe at conservative hip hop critics, Chuck Phillips and Bill O’Reilly.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this album puts all of its efforts into beats while ignoring the lyrics. Missy is able to hang with cats like Method Man on the remake of one of his classics, Bring The Pain. While the remix to Work It features underground sensation 50 Cent in the first verse.