Iconology (released August 23, 2019)
We typically don’t review EPs around here but I’ll gladly make an exception for arguably the most important artist of my music fandom.
I’m a lifelong music fan, but it’s the 90s that really shaped my perception of hip-hop and R&B. While artists like Nas, Biggie and the Wu-Tang Clan caused me to fall in love with hip-hop culture, it was the boundless creativity of a woman from my hometown of Portsmouth, Va., who transformed me from casual music fan to fanatic.
Listening to her music was kinda like watching that final battle in Avengers: Endgame – insane, adrenaline-pumping chaos that constantly kept you guessing but had you hanging on every moment.
It was Missy Elliott who got me here.
Missy, along with her ride-or-die Timbaland, threw every musical convention out of the window in the mid-90s to create sounds that were light-years ahead of its time. Her debut album may be more than two decades old at this point, but still sounds like nothing before or since.
Missy delighted in busting boundaries and transforming perceptions – be it her insane adlibs, songwriting expertise, otherwordly production and, of course, her iconic music videos. In fact, it’s those mind-bending videos that will FINALLY land her a long-overdue Video Vanguard MTV Award this coming Monday.
There’s no better time than now to remind the world that Missy’s a living legend.
Though she’s dropped occasional songs and collabos throughout the past decade, Iconology is Missy’s first collection of new songs since her 2005 album, The Cookbook, a release that predates Kanye West dragging George Bush about Katrina, is four years older than the first black president’s initial term in office, and dropped a half a decade before y’all were staging vacation pics on Instagram.
Honestly, Missy has nothing to prove. Her resume is bulletproof. But the five-song Iconology shows that she has no problem adapting to today’s musical landscape.
Missy blends current trap drums with an old-school vibe for “Throw It Back,” where her lyrics stutter over a minimalistic beat. With lyrics like “booty, booty clap, flyin’ across the map,” no one will ever mistake Misdemeanor for a lyrical assassin like Bahamadia or Rapsody, but it’s not so much WHAT she says but HOW she says it. Her lively delivery is as infectious as ever, as is her wit – “So many VMAs I could live on the moon” and “I did records for Tweet before y’all could even tweet,” in case you forgot.
“DripDemeanor” is classic Missy, a sticky hip-hop/R&B blend with an addictive beat that isn’t afraid to embrace its sexy. Guest vocalist Sum1 basically plays the role of Missy’s old collaborator Nicole Wray and steals the show. Meanwhile, “Why I Still Love You,” sounding like some kind of intergalactic doo-wop, is one of those patented Missy breakup tracks bursting with attitude and one-liners: “I’ll fight you and your chick on sight/don’t play with me cuz baby I’m bout that life.” There’s an a capella version of the track included here too.
The only song that doesn’t quite hit for me is “Cool Off,” which is a little too minimalistic and repetitive for my tastes. However, it seems tailor-made to become one of those meme dance songs. If y’all start seeing Cool Off Challenges with kids dancing with inflatable penguins and popsicles up and down your timelines don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Iconology is much too abbreviated to rate like a traditional album but as a sampler of Missy’s diverse skillset it’s certainly a win. The writing, the energy and the fun are all still here.
If nothing else, it’s cool to see hip-hop and R&B’s greatest mad scientist still in the lab making magic. I wouldn’t be here without her.