Missy Elliott is back — and no, your eyes aren’t misleading you, she’s really back.
To say the return of hip-hop’s most innovative, eccentric voice was highly anticipated doesn’t do service to the emotions in play after Elliott dropped her new video, “WTF (Where They From),” early Thursday morning.
Consider this: In the decade since the groundbreaking rapper-producer last issued an album, Nicki Minaj put female rappers back on pop charts; Katy Perry and Lady Gaga became superstars largely because of left-field visuals in the same way Elliott once had; Rihanna grew into a force to be reckoned with and Beyoncé seemingly controls the pulse of the pop conversation with the tip of her fingers.
That’s why when Elliott — who reinvented the sound of ‘90s urban music with longtime collaborator Timbaland — popped up as Perry’s surprise guest during this year’s halftime show and delivered a medley of hits, it was easy to forget she wasn’t the headliner.
Finally, after years of false starts, she’s delivering new music — and, even better, a new music video.
Produced by Pharrell Williams, the new jam is Missy at her best. The beat is as off-kilter and futuristically funky as could be expected from a track with her name on it, and the lyrics are a barrage of tongue-twisty, nonsensical punches.
And the video is as crazy as anything she did back in the 90’s.
Co-directed with her old collaborator Dave Myers — he’s directed some of her most famous, mind-boggling clips including “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Pass That Dutch” — and choreographed by Hi-Hat, the clip sees Elliott turn the streets of Los Angeles into a surreal playground for herself and a crew of dancers.
Elliott jams under scaffolding, dressed in a jumpsuit that looks like a disco ball reimagined by a couture designer. She delivers a dance routine in a metro station in one scene, and a marionette version of the rapper performs for tips in Hollywood in another (a puppet likeness of Williams substitutes for the real thing).
She kills a routine in a seedy alley before hosting a dance party in what looks like a hive created for alien dancers — that she’s dressed in a clear plastic jumper and space age sunglasses is no coincidence (who can forget the garbage bag and kooky eyewear she donned in her video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”?).
“I’m so far ‘head of y’all / Man, I’m on top of the stars / I don’t care [who] none of y’all are … you best go rewrite ya bars,” she raps before retreating in a hive to sleep.
Watch the video here. There’s mild language, but thank the music gods for Elliott’s return.
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