When Missy Elliott announced the release of her new EP, Iconology, she promised that it would be a collection of songs that brought back the Soul Train era of feel-good music that makes even street dudes want to dance. For anyone who grew up on Missy’s groundbreaking late-90s and early-2000s hits like “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It,” her statement makes total sense — even though it’s inaccurate.
Beginning with her breakthrough “The Rain” and continuing right up to her most recent song, “I’m Better,” longtime Misdemeanor listeners know one thing about the Virginia genre-bender if they know anything: Missy’s music has never been backward-facing. Instead, she has always been ahead of her time, making music from a utopian dance future that she also helped build in real-time. The most astonishing thing about her old hits is that they still sound as though they could have been recorded this year as any other. Against all odds, that trend continues on Iconology.
That isn’t to say Missy never peppered her work with allusions to and inspirations from the “old school” — especially on her fourth full-length album, Under Construction. From the album’s retro-styled cover, featuring Missy in classic B-girl regalia posing next to a “ghetto blaster” cassette player, to its music videos featuring legends of breakdancing like Mr. Wiggles and free-flying references to ’80s hip-hop, Under Construction was as much a love letter to the music that inspired Missy as it was as an experimental, futuristic exploration of where music might be in 20 years.