Album: Missy Elliott

The Cookbook, ATLANTIC
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The Independent Culture

The Cookbook is Missy Elliott's most diverse set yet, thanks largely to the once-ubiquitous Timbaland grooves being restricted to a few tracks, the remainder helmed by, among others, Scott Storch, Craig Brockman, Warryn Campbell and – of course – The Neptunes. The resulting mix of strategies is reflected in the breadth of samples used, ranging from the techno pioneer Juan Atkins's "Clear" and The Sugarhill Gang's version of "Apache" to a snatch of between-songs babble from The J Geils Band's definitive Full House live album. The slew of guest artists, though, is something of an irritation, as every time Slick Rick, Mike Jones, Vybz Cartel, MIA, Fantasia, Fat Man Scoop, Grand Puba or Mary J Blige makes an appearance to big themselves up – generally in perfunctory fashion – Missy feels obliged to do likewise, which renders vast swathes of the album drearily repetitive. Left to her own devices on "Meltdown", she brings a level of saucy spite the others can't match ("I broke up with my ex, I couldn't take his sarcasm/ Every time we boned I had to fake an orgasm/ Moanin' and groanin' just to make him feel manly/ I'd rather use my toys, plus my hands come in handy"), but the sheer soul presence she wields with her singing on "Teary Eyed" and "Time and Time Again" makes those the stand-out tracks.

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