Much like fellow pop rap artist Outkast, Missy Elliot and her master producer, Timbaland, have been changing the face of pop for years. She is arguably the most successful female rap artist of all time. But despite these facts, Missy regrettably stumbles on her fifth effort, This is Not a Test! Across the board, Elliot's flow sounds forced, as though she has run out of things to say in her music. This is evident from the very beginning, as her first track, "Pass that Dutch," sounds a little too much like a sequel to last year's hit, "Work It." Most of what follows are routine party jams and bland R&B tracks, which generally lack any originality on Missy's part. However, there are a few exceptions. The album's best track, "Wake Up," provides a fresh perspective on hip-hop by attacking thug rap with the chorus, "And your wheels don't spin (it's all right) / And you gotta wear them jeans again (it's all right) / Yeah, if you tried oh well (it's all right) / Emcees stop the beef, let's sell (it's all right)." She also gets a little creative on "Spelling Bee," where she intersperses the spelling of words in her rap and on "Toyz," an ode to vibrators. But even the lyrics on these tracks are average, making them generally sound more gimmicky than innovative.Missy also suffers from an unfortunate number of dull, underachieving guest appearances. Elephant Man's contributions to the bouncy "Keep it Movin" are more distracting than anything else, and R. Kelly sounds off on "Dats What I'm Talking About." Also, rappers Jay-Z, Fabolous and Nelly all provide short, unmemorable flows. Nelly's best line, "Go, go, gadget dick," is not even his own, coming straight from an Eminem song. The album's one saving grace is Timbaland's production, once again showing that he is one of the best, if not the best, producer in the business. His batch of futuristic beats often seems to use every sound imaginable except those found on a standard drum. "Wake Up" is one of his best efforts, where he utilizes electronic echoes, subtle bells and a simple bass beat. Regrettably, Timbaland does not produce the whole album. Missy does roughly half of the production, most of which are her R&B tracks, with mixed results at best. She provides solid beats for "Pass That Dutch," "I'm Really Hot" and "Toyz," but her R&B productions are lame piano melodies that will put most listeners to sleep.Even with Timbaland's imaginative beats, This is Not a Test! is an uncharacteristically conventional album for Missy Elliot. Instead of taking her time, she rushed to make a follow up to her 2002 hit album, Under Construction, and it clearly shows in her lyrics and her noticeably bland R&B tracks. The lack of quality guest appearances will hopefully lead Missy to question throwing so many pop stars on her albums in the future. Considering her track record, this musical lapse is likely temporary, and Missy will probably bounce back on her next record. But in the meantime, unless you are a hardcore Missy fan, do not bother putting this on your wish list.
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