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Bring the Sunshine

The sexiest posse in hip-hop right now is the house of Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Everything is slightly askew there: beats, humor, libido. It‘s in the stitch of those elements that the clique has found its Futuristic Retro Post-Ghetto-Negro style, its hip-hop muscle. The children bring their own twists to the freaked groove: There’s Aaliyah, the hot-comb Lolita, who may or may not have been R. Kelly‘s child bride; Ginuwine is the pretty boyex-stripper with question marks bracketing his sexuality; and the missing-in-action Magoo -- one of the most brilliantly wack rappers ever -- is the resident castrato, wrecked on helium. They bring a palpable vibe of erotic fluidity to Timbaland’s patented beats, a rush of amped, tweaked sexuality. At a time when the sex in hip-hop is cruel and vindictive, when laughter is spiteful and bitter, Missy, Tim and their crew fuck (a lot) and laugh (even more) out of genuine pleasure; they groove because it feels good, and want to share the high.

Joining the crew and further subverting lyricalmusicalbedroom parameters on Missy‘s latest CD, Miss E . . . So Addictive, is a who’s who of rap: inexplicable hip-hop pinup Ludacris; Method Man and Redman (exponentially sexier every time they share a mike); Eve; Jay-Z; Da Brat; and this year‘s cameo ho, Lil’ Mo. (The Dirty South is also represented by booty queen Trina, who checks in with a rap on the new single, ”One Minute Man.“) But Missy‘s not simply writhing from the ”E“ she’s so clearly become fond of between her last album (1999‘s Da Real World) and this one. Gender wars, scorched-earth battle rhymes and the power of the bling! flesh out her thematic concerns.

With Timbaland in the producer’s chair (and Missy as studio co-pilot), So Addictive is a showcase of hypercreativity. Experiments with texture and space spill over one another. Electro blips, hip-hop beats and old-school funk meet up in a niggafied future shock where Missy‘s battle taunt, ”You don’t wanna speak my namemess around get that ass blown away,“ is only a few tracks away from Method Man‘s bedpost-rattling ”[I] love it when the pussy talk back, thanks to dick.“ But the space between multilayeredtangential storylines is often just a riff or two within a single cut. Production is both intricate and sparse, leaving you room to appreciate the quilt of details: the quick flutter of a drum pattern that’s buried deep in the groove, controlled bleeps that would make Kraftwerk proud, a dashed-off groan that quickly flares, then recedes from the foreground. Yet the music also breathes -- the way Missy presses right into the microphone when singing or rapping (flipping between the two with ease) floods the disc with intimacy.

All these elements come together on one of this year‘s sexiest tracks, the hip-hopbossa nova hybrid ”Screamin’ a.k.a. Itchin‘,“ in which a Casio wit’ attitude percolates thickly beneath lyrics both ribald and tongue-in-cheek: ”I met him in the Bahamas, I love that nigga personaSmoke that nigga marijuana, get freaky call me MadonnaLay on the bed he follow, bone him until tomorrow.“ And the playfulness doesn‘t fade when Missy’s delivering withering threats, as in ”Lick Shots,“ where that glee only heightens the impact of her words: ”If I give you head, you‘ll never leaveYou don’t know who I beYour mammy never tell you not to fuck wit me . . .“

References to contemporary rap (Three 6 Mafia‘s ”Sippin’ on Some Syrup“), gospel (the Clark Sisters‘ ”You Brought the Sunshine“) and classic soul music (George Clinton’s ”Flashlight“) are all over the place, and serve to anchor the disc in R&B history. ”Old School Joint“ eerily replicates the era and songs it pays homage to -- the glorious post-discopre-hip-hop sounds that once dominated black radio and clubs; the technically tight yet breezy backing harmonies on this one bring to mind the Jones GirlsEmotions era of girl-group soul singers. And ”Take Away,“ the duet with Ginuwine, not only outshines anything he did on his most recent solo effort but also recalls more innocent times before radio ”dedications“ became ”shout-outs.“ It‘s a classic basement-party slow jam.

After songs about flossing, knocking niccas out and freelance fucking, Missy’s inclusion of a hidden track praising Jesus has rubbed many fans the wrong way. But the most foul thing about the disc is the way it offers two versions of the male-vs.-female ”One Minute Man.“ Missy easily holds her own, representing for the women. Ironically, though, in having Ludacris take the guest spot on the original mix, and Jay-Z handle those chores on the remix, the song becomes less a gender war than a dick-waving contest between the two male rappers. And by setting him up for comparison to Jay-Z, Missy inadvertently exposes Ludacris‘ painful shortcomings: With rhyming skills as the measuring stick, he’s hung like a hornet.


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