Artist: Missy Elliott
Album: This Is Not A Test!
Rating: 4 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
This fifth album for Missy picks up almost exactly where “Under Construction” left off last year. If the blatant lyrical smash ‘n’ grab she, her partner in crime Timbaland, and the damn-he-still-sounds-like-Q-Tip-on-helium Magoo performed on Timmy’s recent single ‘Cop That Shit’, as they desecrated three of Hiphop’s greatest verses didn’t already make you aware that Missy was still trying to look backwards as she went forward, then the video for the lead single off this album ‘Pass That Dutch’ should definitely hammer home the point. In this slickly-produced mini-epic, Missy begs for her fellow emcees to ‘wake up’ and stop sleeping on their responsibilities, before launching into the song proper, then cutting it off to bust over an old-school styled beat. Where am I going with this? What do I mean?
Well let me sum it up real quick. I find it a bit rich for peeps like Missy and her ilk to be pleading with us to bring it back to the “good old days” – how it used to be – when she was one of the main offenders in sugar-coating our music and commercializing in to the nth degree in the first place. Don’t think I forgot about her asking us menfolk to pay her bills and shit on ‘All N My Grill’. Its all very well to pop up all over MTV Cribs fronting in your Porsche-bed AFTER you’ve made the money from pissing all over the very ideals you now want us to adopt.
I’ll stop here. Some might say that I might be laying the smackdown on Missy a little TOO harshly – after all she’s not the ONLY guilty party. But unfortunately, I’m pissy right now, and her slimmed-down ass happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hater Central is apparently open for business.
After Missy and Mary J Blige bite / pay homage to (*delete as applicable*) the Sugarhill Gang on the intro, things kick off with the already-mentioned lead single ‘Pass That Dutch’. Now I ain’t gonna front – Timbo hooked this up lovely, with the hopscotch percussion bouncing off the rubbery bassline to provide a devastating rumble in your box. As usual Missy rides the beat well enough, spitting her usual brand of nonsense lyrics (including asking us for a shot of heroin – something you need to tell us, woman?)
Next up, the Jigga man totally outshines Missy on ‘Wake Up’ aka the song playing when Missy / King Kong (*delete as applicable) is hanging off the Empire State Building at the end of the PTD vid. Timbaland’s stripped down beat certainly tips a nod to the minimalism of the old school, and the sentiment throughout the song is certainly admirable as Missy tries to reach out both to those in a worse position than herself, and to her fellow emcees to stop the violence / quit creating fake beefs to sell your wack records (*delete as applicable*).
“If you dont gotta gun (its alright)
If yah makin legal money, (its alright)
If you gotta keep yah clothes on, (its alright)
You aint gotta cellular phone, (its alright)
And yah wheels dont spin, (its alright)
And you gotta wear them jeans again, (its alright)
Yeah if you tried oh well, (its alright)
MC’s stop the beef lets sell, (its alright)”
However I still feel that Missy’s ever-so-slightly hypocritical stance on the whole issue leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
Elephant Man is a fool. Really. I’m sick of him and his “yuuuuuuuuuuup – good to go” little trackmark appearing on / ruining (*delete as applicable*) what seems like every song lately. Stop talking so much bullshit and go get that yellow wig fixed, you muppet. Anyways, here he pops up again with the phrase that pays, tag teaming with Missy (*shivers*) over a Timbaland-and-Missy-bite-RZA styled track. Its instantly forgettable, skip-button fodder.
So too is the next track – Missy’s first solo outing on the boards, ‘Is This Our Last Time’ manages to induce some horrible images – not only is the beat far far too shiny, but Missy switching from crooning about “the first time we made love”, and then switching up, demanding to know why “you don’t fuck me like before?” is just horribly vulgar – both on the ears and on the mind. Add to this the fact that Fabolous’ slightly too laidback / just-rolled-my-big-eared-ass-out-of-bed-ten-minutes-ago (*delete as applicable*) flow sounds at best bored and at worst a load of total crap which should never have made it out of the studio, and you have the perfect ingredients for a horrible balls-up of a track.
In general throughout this album, its pretty accurate to say that whenever Missy steps to the boards on her own, the output jumps up 100% on the SEX scale, and conversely the actual quality of the tracks decreases by the same amount. As well as the above track, the lethargic duet with R Kelly, ‘Dat’s What I’m Talkin’ About’ crawls through four and three quarter minutes before mercifully ending. Missy’s opening line, questioning in falsetto / shite vocals (*delete as applicable*) if you’ve “ever been in the mind of a virgin”, should have many a person fumbling embarrassedly for the skip button – at the very least it will have you shifting uncomfortably in your seat. A move you’ll repeat later (if you make it that far) when everyone’s favourite home movie star R Kelly informs us that he’ll “hit it from the back, and the front, and the side, then bounce it up and down like this.”
That ain’t the end of the red faces though, as on Missy’s ode to her vibrating friends, ‘Toys’, she explains in explicit detail how she likes to get down with the plastic. Maybe she’ll eventually work out that this is the reason why her man ain’t fucking her like before? Maybe she’s been overusing the battery-operated boys to the point where throwing a sausage up a railway tunnel would be a tighter fit. Anyway, the song itself is embarassing not only for the subject matter, but also for the cheesey Stevie-Wonder-plays-the-disco backing track. Stop it. Now.
Elsewhere, the dreadful ‘Ragtime’ interlude only serves to waste forty seconds of my time before ‘I’m Really Hot’ begins. With Timbaland back on the boards, things begin to move back in the right direction. This track and its cousin, ‘Let It Bump’ really do have an authentic old-school feel, with *shock, horror* some scratching on the hook, and Missy’s flow matching the knock-knock of the beats perfectly. ‘Pump It Up’ updates things again – instead of working with a minimal beat, Timbo builds the proceedings around a dominating bassline which packs so much vibration its a wonder Missy ain’t trying to lube it up and sit on it. Fuck, even Nelly sounds good / ok for a wack band-aid wearing gnome (*delete as applicable*) on this beat.
The final portion of the album sees the good and the bad side of the Missy / Timbo relationship revealed in all its ugly glory. When Missy is in the studio on her own, shit stutters with the overall result being unconvincingly soft – ‘Its Real’ and ‘I’m Not Perfect’ I’m looking at you. However when Timbo is in control and quarterbacking the session, things are rosy in the garden – ‘Let Me Fix My Weave’ and ‘Spelling Bee’ demonstrate the range of the man’s beats – with the former being a perfect example if Hiphop-music-itself-wore-throwbacks, while the latter demonstrates the brand new 2004 style of Hiphop party tracks Timbo style, with a buzzy synth noise laid over a simple kick-snare arrangement with superb results.
Rounding things off, The Missy / Mary J intro also serves as outro and *yawn*, that’s it.
So… “Yeah yeah, you just got the wrong side of the bed today – it ain’t that bad!” you say. I agree – it ain’t that bad. It just ain’t that good either. Its patchy as hell. When the formula works, it works to near-perfection – but there’s so many tracks here that fail to raise the adrenlin level at all that they drag the good ones down into a mire of this-shit-sucks. If you got rid of the filler, this would make a near classic EP, however with all the other space wasters wrapped around the prime cuts, there’s more bun than burger here. Maybe next time Missy trumpets her weight loss she should concentrate on trimming unused fat from her albums, instead of her body. Yeah I’m harsh. Sue me.