Missy Elliott’s “Under Construction”

I’m assuming that for many people out there, certain songs or albums will always call up certain memories, times and places.  For the period of my life when I first moved to Las Vegas after having been living in the Azores, the soundtrack would definitely be Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s fantastic and, in my opinion, best album, Under Construction.

My first interaction with Missy came from my last year or so in college (1998-99) while living with Rolondo and Ryan at Casa Ophir.  Rolondo introduced me to the world of 90s Hip-Hop but I think my major favorites from what I heard were definitely the Timbaland & Magoo and Missy Elliott songs.  Back then, it was all about “The Rain” and Missy’s incredible videos from that period.

From that point on, I was a fan.  While I was living in San Antonio for my first assignment in the Air Force, Missy released my second favorite album of hers, Miss E…So Addictive.  It’s this album that has the ridiculously popular “Get Ur Freak On” but that wasn’t the song that I immediately fell in love with.  For me, it was ALL about “4 My People”, a way-ahead-of-its-time epic dance-floor anthem.  To this day, it’s still one of my favorite dance tracks and can easily hold its own against the new stuff you hear nowadays:

Missy’s music was a staple in all my dance playlists through my time in the Azores.  “4 My People” also woke up and clarified my love of dance music which was great in the Azores what with it being a Portuguese territory and hence caught up in the European tradition of loving dance music.  So yay for all that exposure!  Side Azores note:  It’s hilarious that one of the tracks that was ALWAYS played in any of the Terceira nightclubs you’d go to during that period (2001-2002) was Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” – that was a freaking anthem for those guys and would always result in a packed dance floor.  No new Missy Elliott album was released during my Azores days though, and I had to wait till my return to the States when I moved to Las Vegas.  That was when Under Construction was released and I was back just in time to appreciate it.

underconstruction_missyelliottNow, I could see that from a glance at this album cover, you’d be disinclined to see anything special here.  But Missy is special and she reaches the apex of her creative talents with this album.  Her collaborations with the best hip-hop artists of the time like Jay-Z, Ludacris, Method Man and even Beyonce show she’s at the top of her game but also having a lot of fun.  Timbaland’s production and creation of epic sounds and beats can’t be beat.  But what I think I responded to almost initially while giving the disc a first listen in my brand new 2003 black Volkswagen Jetta (miss you, Catherine!) was Missy’s humanity.  She reminisces quite often about a simpler time when hip-hop was about fun and the best rhymes, not about violence and death.  But this album is not about preaching; it’s about putting into action that desire to have hip-hop be fun, and DAMN, there is a lot of it to be had within this album.

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Catherine, my beautiful VW Jetta

Catherine and I indeed bonded through repeated playings of Under Construction.  Even though the lead single from the album was “Work It” with its insane and untypeable reverse lyrics and dirty grooves, that wasn’t my initial favorite song. Nope, I was blown away by the song directly following it, “Gossip Folks”.  Dear God, what an amazing song.  There’s a ridiculously amazing beat driving the song which is an unholy blend of “Double Dutch Bus” and lyrics that are barely understandable.  It sounds like a mess on paper, but when you hear it, there’s nothing you can do but just dance and turn that music up.

The video is also a lot of fun but the song by itself grabbed me and made me its bitch.  It was and still is incredible.  I can still vividly remember driving on Flamingo Blvd towards my new home on Nellis Blvd while cranking this song in my hot and amazing new car.  I really was feeling alive at that moment and I was so excited to be in Vegas with a new job and a whole new world awaiting me.  And best of all?  Casinos!  Now obviously, if you’ve ever read my blog/website during that time, you know that it kind of didn’t work out all that well, especially professionally.  But I did have a lot of fun with some great friends there and that by itself was what made it worth it.

“Work It” and “Gossip Folks” aren’t the only attractions of the album.  The intro track, “Go To The Floor” makes you do precisely that with an intense beat.  “Funky Fresh Dressed” is a bit goofy old school while “Back in The Day” wistfully remembers the good ol’ days of hip-hop.  The other driving track that gets me going is “Slide”, a song infused with a drawling dirty beat and a lyric of “don’t it sound so fantastic” that every time I hear I have to sing along to as if I’m bouncing down stairs as the way Missy sings it is so damn amazing.

I miss the Missy Elliott of the 2000s – hell, I just miss Missy Elliott, as she has seemingly disappeared from public view.  I have read that she’s fighting a disease which has kept her sidelined.  She did release two songs a year or so ago and I regrettably was pretty disappointed as it was very generic stuff.  Missy has always had a distinct voice with unique beats in her songs so to hear her no longer have that in those newer songs gave me pause.  But perhaps she is going to find that voice again and surprise us all again someday.  I’d love for Joan (my new red Mazda 3) to have a song of her own.

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