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.