Missy Elliott has always demanded, and received, respect, from the moment she released her first record. Fat, female, with a dress sense as big as her personality, she took on the hip hop world and demanded it accepted her on her terms. This collection reminds us, if we ever needed a memento, of why she deserves to be at its pinnacle still, despite entourage tales, clothing lines and Hip Hop Idol. She may not be the best at everything, but when it comes to laying down lines and beats, she reigns supreme.
Respect M.E. opens with Get Ur Freak On, the song whose infectious hook, aggressive lyrics and super stylish video with Elliott swinging in spangled camouflage from a chandelier brought her to most people’s notice. “Missy be puttin’ it down/I’m the hottest round” indeed.
Her third album, 2001’s Miss E… So Addictive and its follow up, Under Construction, were studded with big hits. In collaboration with Timbalake Elliott served up brilliant dance music and soulful meditations, often returning to the same guest stars again and again – all but one track here, Lose Control, is produced by him. Together they constructed a unique musical language that’s so sharp it’s magical.
But by being completist, the album also show us how far their partnership has come. Contributions from her earlier albums Supa Dupa Fly and Da Real World, while full of interesting couplets, lack the musical and rhythmic sophistication you associate with a full-on Missy Elliott number.
They shift gears and confound expectations, making older numbers like Hot Boyz and Sock It 2 Me sound positively pedestrian by comparison. By 2003, with songs like Work It, Elliott is twisting language, replacing words with nonsense phrases or sounds (using the noise of a bull elephant’s trumpeting to replace the word cock always brings a smile to my face), and yet driven along by the rhythm we understand perfectly what she means.
Missy Elliott has done enough to ensure her position in the Hip Hop pantheon, and Respect M.E. is a great greatest hits package, unlike many of the ‘two songs you recognise’ retrospectives many performers are releasing. Pruning perhaps four numbers from it would raise it from four to five stars, but that is a minor niggle. From the soulful phrasings of the charmingly dirty Minute Man to the magnificent, symphonic shifts of Lose Control, Respect M.E. is a testament to a truly gifted woman.