Missy Elliott has always gotten by on skillz rather than sex appeal, so it’s a bit of a surprise her new album is front-loaded with R-rated stuff, getting its rocks off early with a string of risqué tunes culminating in the mondo bizarro “Get Ur Freak On.” Missy knows she’s no R. Kelly, of course. And although “Get Ur Freak On” is a great song (and maybe the best single of the summer), it’s not sexy per se; it’s downright uncanny — a formless, tuneless jumble of Indian tabla and Missy’s stutter-step rhymes, something like the hip-hop equivalent of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
Missy’s sexuality likewise isn’t about bedroom narratives so much as a less stagy agenda: using sex as a sort of metaphor for her sound, trying to mimic its rhythms and get her figurative freak on. It’s a pretty elastic metaphor, natch, as is the music-equals-drugs thing the album’s title refers to. And so when she imagines “a place of fulfillment and fantasies where your dreams become realities” on “X-tasy” she might be talking about sex, or the Ecstasy that comes in a pill, or maybe just plain spiritual ecstasy. It doesn’t really matter, though — like the sex she celebrates and the drugs she hypes, her music is sustenance for her party people, those folks who share the far-out consciousness that allows her to praise God, pills, sex and herself all at once.
Miss E … is a good record due in large part to Timbaland’s production, which goes for both funked-up grooves and plenty of crazy shit (the Middle Eastern signifiers of “Get Ur Freak On” are but one sonic coup), which is not to mention the great cameos scattered throughout. But it’s really Missy’s show. Near album’s end, she follows up a dis on young divas who sing like they’re “in church raisin’ money for some new choir robes” with her own earnest praise song, nonchalantly sandwiching a Jay Z-led remix of “One Minute Man” in between. Hey-hey: Missy is pop music’s Dr. J. — she’s weird, elegant and has better moves than almost anyone else in the game.
E-mail Christian Hoard at email@example.com.