There isn’t a Hip Hop fan alive who could ever accuse Missy Elliot of chasing trends. Since dropping the groundbreaking Supa Dupa Fly nearly 18-years ago, the Virginia-native has always managed to make drastic sonic and stylistic changes per album at one time. Her fourth and highest selling album to date, Under Construction, wasn’t any different. And, it couldn’t have come at such a bittersweet moment. A year prior, Missy essentially predated Hip Hop’s eventual fascination with EDM through the futuristic sounding Miss E… So Addictive. That albumwent on to sell around 2.5 million copies globally and garner successful hit singles “Get Ur Freak On” and “One Minute Man.” This arguably made her one of the most successful and consistent females in rap at that point. Several months later, she’s faced with the untimely death of close friend and collaborator Aaliyah. Two weeks following, America is faced with the tragedy that would become known as 9/11. 2002 rolls around and Hip Hop is shocked by the deaths of both Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez and Jam Master J. Her follow-up to Miss E… So Addictive could have been a depressing project full of self-wallowing. If that was the potential result, no one would have blamed her. Instead, Under Construction featured Missy openly paying homage to her deceased friends and Hip Hop culture while having one helluva time.

Under Construction’s first single couldn’t have served as better proof of that notion. Also becoming her biggest selling single to date, “Work It” was a complete 180 from the bhangra tinged feel of “Get Ur Freak On.” Already established as a super-producer by that point, Timbaland fused classic Hip Hop samples including Run-D.M.C.’s “Peter Piper” and Rock Master Scott & Dynamic Three’s “Request Line” with his signature future bounce. This allowed Missy to playfully spit hypersexual lyrics that weren’t too raunchy as to distract the masses. Plus, it was a cool pop dance record despite the obvious throwback Hip Hop underbelly. Many agreed. “Work It” kept Miss E at the number two spot on the Billboard Top 100 for ten weeks and the Hot R&B/ Hip Hop charts for five. By the time the Dave Meyers-directed video hit television sets pre-YouTube, Missy not only sported that vintage look and slimmer frame. The same could be said for follow-up “Gossip Folks” featuring Ludacris which sampled Frankie Smith’s “Double Dutch Bus” or “Play That Beat”s usage of once “go to” drum clip of “Bumpin’ Bus Stop” by Thunder and Lightning.

Reaching beyond the singles, Under Construction couldn’t have been more steeped in subtle references to Hip Hop history. Recreating Method Man’s “Bring The Pain” with Meth himself was a bold move that paid off. Most importantly, Timbaland showed restraint and left the original Jerry Butler sample of “I’m Your Mechanical Man” alone. Utilizing Beastie Boy’s “Paul Revere” on “Funky Fresh Dressed” with former BeatClub artist Ms. Jade added more to the Slick Rick interpolation. Moreover, there wasn’t a track that represented Under Construction thematically than “Back In The Day” featuring Jay Z. Misdemeanor reliving her younger days watching Hip Hop culture grow into the 2000s was as innocent as it was introspective. Before beefs reached ridiculous levels, opinions of whether an album were classic or not and all the other mundane rap arguments, Hip Hop was unadulterated fun. Missy looked deep into her love for the culture and came out a clear winner. She even got Hov to open up as he transitioned into the “mogul” he’s become today.

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Many salute Supa Dupa Fly’s impact on Hip Hop and Missy’s solo career. However, Under Construction holds a very special importance of its own. Selling well over three million, the album earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album and Album Of The Year. It couldn’t have dropped at a better time. Missy created the most serious, non-serious rap album that year and commercially solidified herself as a force of her own. For some, Under Construction could potentially serve as her purest rap album to date in the traditional sense. Missy dropping the Meyers directed video for “WTF” featuring Pharrell today is more than a coincidence. It’s also a celebration of her greatest album to date as she looks to the future. Between her standout appearances during Katey Perry’s Super Bowl Halftime show and Essence Fest performance, 2015 has been quite good to Hip Hop’s best anomaly.