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New American Songbook

Welcome Back, Missy

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KMUW's Zack Gingrich-Gaylord celebrates the return of a master.

One week after the official video for Missy Elliott’s newest single was released on YouTube, it had racked up more than fourteen million views—I’m happy to report that a hundred of those—and counting-- belong to me. The track, called ‘WTF’, in this case meaning ‘Where They From?’ is the first from Elliott in several years: her last full album came out in 2005. Nevertheless, the single shows no signs of disconnect or even nostalgia. This is tomorrow’s hip hop: vibrant, edgy and better than you imagined.

It’s difficult to avoid hyperbole when describing not only this single, but really anything else that Missy Elliott has ever produced. NPR’s headline read ‘Missy Elliott’s Return is Everything We Crave’, and if that seems a bit much, you haven’t listened to the track yet. Since her debut with the record ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ in 1997, Elliott has been producing consistently perfect and genre-defining music—if you listened to practically any radio from 1997 to 2005, you heard Missy or someone trying to sound like her.

The secret to this is simple: Missy Elliott keeps it real, and yes, I’m aware that the video for ‘WTF’ has Missy in more than half a dozen costumes and prominently features dancing marionettes. That’s not a gimmick, that’s Missy Elliott—that’s how they do it where she’s from. And for nearly twenty years, it’s worked.