Clad in a T-shirt and basketball jersey, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott looked like no other MTV fixture in the late Clinton era. Whether she’s gay is of no account: her clattering aluminum beats, declaration of appetites, camp ethos, and fascination with banality denotes a queer sensibility regardless. Every one of her albums released between 1997 and 2005 — an era that encompassed boom times and end times — is essential; This is Not a Test! has the most bangers and good album tracks, Da Real World still curiously forgotten, but Supa Dupa Fly still sounds like strange voices from another star, for which she deserves more credit than Timbaland. Souping up guys like won-ton, swaying on dosie-do like you loco, making you hot like Las Vegas weather, she reminded artists that before hip hop developed a social consciousness and was known as rap, it was an excuse to fling fly rhymes over dope beats. “‘Look, it’s very simple,’” John Lennon once said to David Bowie in a fictional conversation. “‘Say what you mean, make it rhyme, and put a backbeat to it.’” What else is there?
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