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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Missy Elliott, "Under Construction"

Missy Elliott
"Under Construction"
Elektra (2002)
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

The paradox that any female rapper faces is that of how to best represent one’s gender. On one hand, any successful rapper has a decent amount of swagger, and as such, it would make sense for female emcees to declare that they are the queen bees and represent the strength of their sex. On the other hand, male rappers tend to rake in the sales, and much of their content deals with just how many women they can juggle, so a female rapper may want to sell sex as well. Missy Elliott walks this fine line on “Under Construction” with some degree of skill, but can be forgiven falling sideways.

The side she tends towards is demonstrating just how sexy she can be, even if she is the alpha female in the rap-pack. The results are generally her best club tracks, such as the hit single “Work It.” On the other hand, she occasionally embraces the prototypical female hip-hop role so much that it threatens to renege the work she put in canceling that image, such as on “P***ycat,” in which she plans to use her sexuality to convince her man to not cheat, as if love weren’t enough.

It’s easy to forgive “Work It,” with its slick UFO beat from Timbaland and Elliott’s spitfire hook, a segment featuring the line “I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” played both forwards and backwards with mind-whirling effects, plus the priceless use of a elephant’s trumpet as the self-censorship for male genitalia. Elliott works in the girl power for the album’s remix of the single, which features a guest verse from 50 Cent, which features the normally too-tough rapper giving Missy her due.

Among the out-and-out feminist tracks is “Nothing Out There For Me,” a track in which Elliott encourages her friend, played by Beyonce Knowles (the current queen of balancing sex appeal and gender power), to come out to the club. Knowles’ sad delivery of the song’s title provides an interesting perspective at how men keep women from achieving their full potential.

Ultimately, the mainstream content wins out on “Under Construction.” The album is better bought for its danceworthy tracks rather than it’s sociological messages, but kudos for trying.

INTERESTING FACT: “Work It” is a track that hasn’t been forgotten, but it never got to the top of the charts. In fact, it spent 10 weeks at no. 2 on the Billboard Top 40, the longest ever for a song to spend at no. 2 without getting to no. 1. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is largely to blame, spending 12 weeks at the top spot.

Work It (Remix) by Missy Elliott on Grooveshark

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