Music

Missy Elliott: The Cookbook

Steve Horowitz

Elliott cooks up some tasty hits on her latest release. Now if she could only be more careful with her use of language.


Missy Elliott

The Cookbook

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2005-07-05
UK Release Date: 2005-07-04
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

With its slew of catchy songs, The Cookbook is guaranteed to be another hit record for Missy Elliott. Tracks sure to get heavy radio rotation include her smooth duet with Slick Rick, "Irresistible Delicious", the party anthem "Lose Control", and the funky romp "Can't Stop". Elliott employs a host of guest stars to punch up the record that include Mike Jones, Timbaland, Pharrell, Fantasia, Ciara, Grand Puba, Mary J. Blige, and Lil Kim. But not every song is a good time. Elliott includes recipes for other dishes on her new disc, including the autobiographically serious "My Struggles" and her pulsating tribute to strong women, "Mommy".

The new album does have a few duds. "Click Clack" has a tired rhythm and uninspired lyrics. "On & On" suffers from having nothing to say and old school scratching production that adds little of interest. These two songs are the exceptions. While not every cut is a winner, Elliott does a fairly consistent job of gaining the listener's attention through her outrageous lyrics and performance style.

Hyperbole, or exaggerating to make a point, has been a part of rock in general and hip-hop in the particular since the beginning. Lotharios routinely brag about their sexual prowess in overstated terms. For example, rappers commonly compare their lovemaking abilities to nuclear explosions. But is there a point where one has to draw the line, where the comparison is so egregious as to be offensive. Elliott's latest release begs this question twice, in two different throwaway lines on two separate cuts.

As the title suggests, "Meltdown" is the hottest track on The Cookbook. The song starts out with a sweet, two-note looped synthesizer instrumental sample played over a catchy rhythm. Elliott coyly sings "bet it tastes like candy" three times and then directly launches into her sexy story: "I broke up wit my ex / I couldn't take his sarcasm / Everytime we bone / I had to fake an orgasm / Moanin' and groanin' tried to make him feel manly / I'd rather use my toys, plus my hands come in handy." Her unusual rhymes (what does his sarcasm have to do with her orgasm? Um, beats me, but the words trippingly come off the tongue and that's probably the point) and use of explicit detail immediately capture the listener. Elliott gets raunchier: "Make my pussy quiver / Juices runnin' like a river / Slowly down my kitty litter" before getting to the chorus where one learns that that the thing that tastes like candy is her man's "magic stick". Elliott makes clear that she's only willing to suck her man's dick if he's faithful and true. Then she enjoys giving him pleasure. So far, so good.

The song continues as Elliott professes her love for her new man and compares their affair to other famous black diva pairs such as Janet and J.D. and Beyonce and Jay-Z. As Elliot heads to the song's end she coos the line "You got me whipped like slaves in the days". Whoa, what did she say? The line functions on several levels. Foremost, this implies she's utterly overwhelmed as a separate, strong personality by his love. This seems incongruous with the image Elliott fosters of always being in control. Next, this works as a play on the more commonly used expression of one whose self has been beaten down by love: pussy-whipped. In this case with a chorus that concerns a man's penis, Elliott professes being dick-whipped. However, the allusion to "slaves in the days" turns the wordplay into something patently offensive. The whipping is now one of physical pain to innocent victims. While rappers may compare their skills to atomic bombs, they don't compare their partners to the victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The other questionable lyric attributed to Elliott is sung by the electronica star M.I.A. on the song "Bad Man." M.I.A's music has been controversial because of ambiguous references to terrorism. Here M.I.A. declares "I be wilder than Tim McVeigh". The namedropping of the mass murderer as wild distorts reality in an unpleasant and amoral manner. If Elliott and M.I.A. are merely trying to get one's attention through shock value, they have succeeded but at a cost that debases the details of recent history.

Some might think finding these two lines offensive is a tempest in a teapot. Rock is chock full of shocking language and imagery. Compared to groups like Insane Clown Posse, Twiztid and other purposely tasteless acts, what Elliott does seems mild. But while ICP and company advertise their psychosis and appeal to niche audiences, Elliott is a mainstream artist. She may be the most successful female artist in the music industry today. She is the best-selling female hip-hop artist of all time, has won five Grammy Awards, does Gap commercials with Madonna, hosts her own TV program, and much, much more. Her lyrics carry more weight.

Elliott did change some of the language on The Cookbook before general release. According to an article in the London Times, Elliott used the expression "Batty Boy" several times, unaware this was an unflattering term for a homosexual in Jamaica -- the equivalent of faggot in the United States. Elliott claimed not to know this and deleted the term from her album. She was right to do this. If only she had altered the other offensive lyrics, the disc would be even more improved.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.