Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Missy Elliott

  • Under Construction [Elektra, 2002] ***
  • This Is Not a Test! [Elektra, 2003] A
  • The Cookbook [Atlantic/Gold Mind, 2005] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Under Construction [Elektra, 2002]
hardcore to the booty, slimfast to the brain ("Work It," "Bring the Pain") ***

This Is Not a Test! [Elektra, 2003]
"I've got the Martin Luther King fever," she declares injudiciously, only soon she's burning up, delivering the old-school album she claimed last time. Beats-first like Run-D.M.C. if Jam Master Jay had been hooked up like Timbaland, it's clinched by Elliott's innocent belief in her mission, which boils down to world conquest. For hooks she calls in more platinum guests than the entire genre supported in 1990 and cites aphorisms that embody history if you know your Salt-N-Pepa and embody fresh if you don't. Like MLK, she preaches--against crack dealers and all their unholy bling-bling. And when she reaches out to her people, she grabs the sisters first. A

The Cookbook [Atlantic/Gold Mind, 2005]
On this benchmark album that half the beatoisie will sleep on because it has no "Work It" and Timbaland, after all, was the genius (which he was)--this benchmark album that given the vagaries of fashion could initiate a permanent commercial decline--Elliott showcases the musical health of African American pop. Oldschoolfreshbeathiphopr&b--run through Elliott's considerable talent and good heart or reasonable facsimile, these are meaningless categories. Elliott's disinclination to give it up to gangsta's thrill cult or black pop's soft-focus porn, plus her proven ability to work a good beat when she gets one, leads her naturally to a collection that ebbs and flows, peaks and dips, and pokes fun at any canon of taste you got. It's vital beginning to end--vital even when it's misguided, a matter on which your judgments may differ from mine, fine with her. A-