Fourteen years have passed since Missy Elliott released her last legit project The Cookbook. For nearly a decade after, The Misdemeanor tested the waters of a full-fledged comeback with a handful of single releases and guest appearances after revealing a battle with Graves disease.
Renewed interest in the former megastar hit a fever pitch following her surprise set during Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX performance. Since then, she’s released a few semi-impactful singles amid lending more cameos from Lizzo to A$AP Ferg and Ariana Grande. On the heels of finally getting a Michael Jackson Vanguard Award for this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, Missy drops a collection of tracks in the form of Iconology.
The five-track EP proves that Missy can still create captivating dance-pop and R&B while sticking to cultural traditions.
The bouncy trap-inspired lead single “Throw It Back” serves as a reminder of everything that made Missy joints so classic. This means easily memorable hooks, rhymes that are quirky yet technical and dance floor ready. A celebration for such an illustrious career, she spits braggadocious bars about her storied history like “Not many can do what I do / So many VMA’s that I could live on the moon” and the hilarious “I did records for Tweet before y’all could even tweet.” Between all of that come allusions to hits including “Work It” and the greatest female posse cut ever “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix).”
“Cool Off” takes Missy into Miami Bass territories including clever usage of Uncle Luke adlibs while continuing the dancefloor antics of Iconology’s opening. Purposely repetitive hooks and moments within verses hone in that feel as she repetitively drops “Goin’ hard, tempo forty-four, feel like JAY-Z” and “Missy in this bitch doin’ shit you ain’t never seen.” Between the Wili Hendrix produced “Throw It Back” and “Cool Off,” Missy totally made good on her promise to get people dancing again.
Iconology’s halfway point not only has Missy reuniting with longtime collaborator Timbaland but shifts more into R&B as well. While this concept of blurring the lines between Hip Hop and R&B is overwhelmingly common in the streaming age, it’s interesting seeing Missy float so gracefully on the sensual “DripDemeanor” featuring newcomer Sum1. Then it’s easy to forget the Songwriters Hall of Fame member’s R&B pedigree with Aaliyah, Fantasia, Ciara, Jasmine Sullivan and more. That continues with “Why I Still Love You,” a track she’d previewed on Instagram in acapella form earlier this year. The layered vocals and vintage blues stylistics allow Missy to deliver her trademark scorned woman lyrics “You don’t care how I be feelin’ inside / You gon’ make me tell you / Kiss my ass goodbye” as Timbaland provides his signature mutant power drums.
Though the duo disappointingly never offer moments of unique sonic or stylistic shifts compared to classic albums including Supa Dupa Fly or Under Construction, Missy and Timbo can still craft some strong middle-of-the-road R&B regardless. Unlike those past releases, the project doesn’t sound like it was constructed to making an artistic statement anyway.
It’s been disproven time and time again that Hip Hop’s a young person’s sport for a decade and some change later, Missy hasn’t lost much of a step. In a time where her late age peers getting major release priorities get more experimental, introspective or attempt to follow trends, Iconology works as a reminder of Missy’s DNA not only in the recent explosion of female rappers but pop music in general.