; Tangled Up In Blue: Rain

Thursday, September 08, 2005


I thought I'd spend my inaugural post on Missy Elliott since few people here seem to be big rap fans. No, it's not just so that no one can disagree with me, but also because I love Missy and think everyone should at least appreciate her.

Most everyone is, I guess, at least familiar with her music videos, which are always some of the strangest things you've ever seen on MTV--jerky movements, wild futuristic costumes, and the familiar sounds of Missy's experiments with noise.

"The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" was her first or second big hit and, if you were listening to rap then, or even rap now, it stands out as a shiny strange feminine dot on an urban, masculine, some would say blighted, landscape.

I'm trying to think what you should listen for first, and I think first you should just give yourself over to the noise of the song. Much of Missy's music is, I think, right in line with Gertrude Stein. It's not about what the words mean, not about their dictionary definitions, but what the sounds of the words together mean, how they make you feel. It's nonsense that makes sense. "Sway-lo dosi-do like you loco" and "Susie Asado which is a told tray sure. A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers"--which is Elliot? Which is Stein?

Then, sure, listen to the words. In general, they're about driving around smoking pot with her friends. But by now, you've noticed the sample. In the background, Ann Peebles singing "I can't stand the rain, against my window." And, if you know that song--and please tell me if there's any more heartbreaking a song that makes you want to tap your fingers--when Missy's going one way with her lyrics, you're bound to drift off another way, filling in the rest of Ann's lyric, "I can't stand the rain, against my window, bringing back sweet memories."

Which begs the question: why is a song about smoking pot with your friends sampling a song about not being able to stand the things that make you miss your man? And that's when I'd recommend you go back for one more listen. Notice the shout-out to SWV--Can we get kinky tonight?--and that lone girl on the hill--Lauryn, who was burning up the airwaves with her remake of "Killing Me Softly" at that moment--and all the sad talk about sex, "You don't wanna play with my Yo-Yo" and "I break up with him before he dump me."

Yeah, it seems to be a song about chilling with her friends, but really it's all about the strategies she has to "try to maintain" in the face of heartbreak--the sad soul songs, the self-medicating, hanging out with friends, driving around aimlessly, and the pep talk, "I'm supa fly, supa dupa fly," "To have me, oh yes, you lucky."

I don't know how many sad breakup songs there are in rap, but this is definitely one of the best.


Blogger John H said...

In the early days of TUIB (it seems like so long ago..), Katherine wrote an eloquent piece about rap centering on Public Enemy's brilliant morph of 'for what it's worth' into 'he got game'.

A lot of rap has FlOWed through our house, largely because of my kids, but also because I quickly discovered that there wasn't any one form of music called rap - it wasn't all the same. De La Soul are to Old Dirty Bastard as Elvis Costello is to Motley Crue.

Aunt B is on the mark here. Missy is musically triple jointed..

Listen to 'Work It' sometime, along with 'The Rain'..flip it and reverse it.

Good stuff. We've talked about legends some..I'd put Missy in the musical genius category.

4:02 PM  
Blogger dolphin said...

I grew up in Hampton Roads and a friend of mine (at the time, lost touch a LONG time ago) lived across the street from the house Missy grew up in.

4:07 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...

Excellent post, Aunt B.

You've opened my eyes. I'm definately going to have to pay me some more attention to Ms. Missy.

4:18 PM  
Blogger HUCK said...

"De La Soul are to Old Dirty Bastard as Elvis Costello is to Motley Crue."

I'll second that sentiment. I'll listen to De La Soul and Digable Planets any day of the week.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

Know nothing about Missy Elliot. I'll have to give her a whirl.

Now, I'd be doubly impressed if she'd adopt Gertrude Stein's wardrobe.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Glen Dean said...

Welcome aboard Aunt B.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

What's this? More places to read Aunt B talk about music?

Yay! And kudos to Missy Elliott, who is not only like Gertrude Stein, but is as funky as James Brown.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Glen, thanks.

Steve, I told you you'd totally dig this place.

9:36 AM  

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