As Missy Elliott Week goes on, it seems like a good idea to take a step back from our awe at her tracksuits and videos to focus a little more directly on the music. But we don't just need to consider the music Missy has made under her own name -- she's also had a long, often undervalued career as a producer (frequently in collaboration with Timbaland), quietly shaping the sounds of hip-hop and R&B for decades. Let's dig in to five classic Missy productions that you might not know she worked on -- and even if you did know it, it's always a good time to give these tracks another spin.
Aaliyah, "If Your Girl Only Knew"
Missy Elliott heavily contributed to One in a Million, Aaliyah's second album after she had already struck a nerve with her debut, along with producing partner Timbaland. And it's a good thing she did, because the beat for this song (and for most of the album, really) still bounces, hard. That sound might be more heavily associated with Timbaland's highly visible production work now, but it's worth remembering how much Missy contributed to its early formation. She also makes a cameo appearance in the music video, giving her some extra visibility before even releasing "The Rain."
Mariah Carey, "Babydoll"
This is just classic Mariah, and has a lot less aggression than most of Missy Elliott's beats, which is quietly pretty impressive given the way her work with Timbaland tends to lodge itself in your ears. Just accept that this is a good Mariah track, and accept that Missy Elliott has some damn range as a producer. Smooth.
702, "Where My Girls At"
This track by the Las Vegas group went to #4 on the Billboard charts, partly on the strength of Missy Elliott's song-writing and production skills. Amusingly, although the single eventually went gold and was a huge success for 702, becoming their signature track, the song went to them after being originally rejected by TLC (who, by this point, maybe didn't need the song). Everybody wins when Missy Elliott is involved.
Destiny's Child, "Get on the Bus"
This track, written for the soundtrack of the Frankie Lymon biopic Why Do Fools Fall in Love (a movie that stars Halle Berry and Vivica A. Fox), is a pretty incredible snapshot of Missy and Timbaland's sound in 1998 -- it also features the sounds of chirping birds as part of the beat. (Aaliyah contributed to the choreography in the music video -- truly, a family affair.)
Fantasia, "Free Yourself"
This ballad of extraction from an abusive relationship is just a little more lush and nakedly emotional than normal Missy productions, but that makes it all the more impressive that she managed to work in a pretty different mode. The track still works for the most part, and Fantasia was definitely lucky to have Missy Elliott helping to shape its overall classic R&B sound, fresh off her American Idol win.
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