Missy isn’t fat, Snoop isn’t toasted, and rap has come full circle. Not full circle back to the Grandmaster Flash (or, God forbid, Blondie) days, but full circle to ’60s soul, the crucible from which both the sonic and logistical backbone of hip hop was forged.
Or, to phrase the answer in the form of a question: were Temptations songs the Temptations’ or where they the Temptations’ and songwriter Norman Whitfield’s? This isn’t a rhetorical question; the Temptations sounded totally different when Smokey Robinson was writing for them then when Whitfield was.
Snoop, accordingly, sounds schizophrenic with 11 different producers contributing to Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$. From the Neptunes’ sleaze-chank of “Beautiful” to Hi-Tek’s formal rim-shots on “I Miss That Bitch,” tha Doggfather runs from Chocolate City to Sugarhill to the City of Compton. Most importantly, he doesn’t break a sweat; his sibilant delivery is unfailingly smooth and all of his producers this time around construct the right feel for his flows. Though, as you would expect, the Neptunes are better than DJ Premier is better than Hi-Tek is better than Josef Leimberg. Nobody falls nearly as flat as Masta P did.
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, on the other hand, started as a co-conspirator with Timbaland, and only started seeing her own name after the duo had earned themselves a rep for cutting tracks that were more wacko than wack. She’s more analogous to Robinson-longtime maker of other peoples’ careers who finally got the chance to break her own. And, like Smokey, she externalizes the music in her head better than anyone else can. Under Construction adapts her mediocre range to a menagerie of bizarre deliveries. Even when she falls short of hitting the B flat, her vocal contortions are more than worth listening to. Timbaland is, as usual, quirky at best, disorienting at worst, but he always shares Elliott’s love of being sonically odd for its own sake.
And that’s what made Motown, Stax, Invictus, etc. so successful: they matched their vocal talents with songwriters who could do right by them. This philosophy is alive and well in black music, and exemplified by the strategic promiscuity of Snoop Dogg and the monogamous camaraderie of Missy Elliott.
[DJ Fatkid was on that Bootsy glasses tip like a month ago, Cal buddy.]