Since Missy Elliott’s first album, Supa Dupa Fly, dropped back in 1997, she and her regular collaborator, the groundbreaking producer Timbaland, have delivered a steady stream of brilliant singles. Only two of her five albums aren’t weighted with filler (the debut and 2002’s Under Construction), but the audacity and ingenuity of her best material easily compensate for the duds. The brightest tracks on her most recent album, This Is Not a Test! (Elektra/Asylum, 2003), are glorious dance-floor confections full of experimental impulses: bizarre sound effects, non-Western cadences, and bold juxtapositions of balladry and brutal beats. On “Pass That Dutch” Timbaland hijacks dancehall’s ubiquitous Diwali rhythm and girds it with monster bass. On “Pump It Up” low-end beats that simulate the rattle of a subwoofer pumping in the back of a pimped-out ride support a strutting ode to big-boned womanhood (“Love my gut, so fuck a tummy tuck”). The hypnotically minimal “Wake Up” is a warning about misplaced priorities and an affirmation of hip-hop’s transformative power, teaming a cautionary first-person tale from Jay-Z with Elliott’s conciliatory chorus: “If you don’t got a gun it’s alright / If yah makin’ legal money it’s alright.” And there’s sex, of course: R. Kelly does a creepy guest turn as a lothario about to deflower a virginal Missy on “Dats What I’m Talkin About,” while on “Toyz” Elliott dispenses with men in favor of a battery-powered alternative. Tamia opens, followed by Elliott, Alicia Keys, and Beyonce. Friday, April 2, 7 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Crump.