The Cookbook

Artist: Missy ElliottTitle: The CookbookRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Imani Dawson

When it comes to Hip-Hop, call Missy Elliott the last woman standing. Other female MCs lean heavily on cliques and rap icons for support, credibility and often, lyrical assistance. Missy however, is an independent woman and a respected rapper, sought after songwriter and hit-making producer. For her latest release, the Cookbook (Goldmind/Atlantic), Elliot stands even firmer on her own two, largely eschewing the assistance of longtime collaborator Timbaland. Even without Tim’s innovative board work, she still manages to serve up a healthy portion of the eclectic melodies her audience has come to expect.

Here, Elliott enlists other top-shelf producers like the Neptunes, Scott Storch and Rich Harrison to help concoct her bitches brew of hot songs. Some really work, like “On & On”, a club ready joint fueled by a Neptunes beat that samples the Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick classic “The Show” and her self-produced lead single “Lose Control”, which brims with 80’s style electro-funk. Others leave a bitter taste. “Joy, featuring Mike Jones, is one of the album’s two Timbaland produced tracks and sounds positively anemic compared to Tim & Missy’s usual high energy efforts while “Click Clack” is pure album filler.

Elliott is at her most magnificent when she seamlessly mixes hip-hop, reggae and R&B, old school and new into one delectable sonic soup. “Bad Man” featuring international artists Vybez Cartel and M.I.A. is weird and wonderful enough to rank with the most distinctive hits of her storied career. “Teary Eyed” features a scorned Elliott singing about love gone wrong against a sonic backdrop of marching band horns. She also manages to make her collaborations with put-out-to-pasture rappers Slick Rick and Grand Puba, on “My Struggles” and “Irrestible Delicious” respectively, sound fresh and relevant to today’s fickle listening audience.

In a musical culture that has reduced most females to sex-oozing mutes, Elliot refuses to be silenced. Her sixth album proves that her sassy, unique voice still rings clear, despite the occasional misstep. More importantly, it cements her status as one of the most innovative and talented rappers-male or female-to ever pick up the microphone. And that puts Elliott in a class by herself.

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