Picks and Pans Review: This Is Not a Test!

updated 12/15/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/15/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

Missy Elliott

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It must be fun being Missy Elliott. Who else could gleefully rap a song called "Let Me Fix My Weave," as she does on her fifth disc, and work it into a bumping party jam? Since her breakthrough 1997 debut, Supa Dupa Fly, Elliott has gotten her freak on with some of the hippest hip-hop around. Although her latest, This Is Not a Test!, doesn't get marks as high as last year's Under Construction, it still finds Elliott making some of the most witty, sonically inventive rap in the game. As usual, Elliott teams up with her beatmaster, producer Timbaland, and the two once again make a potent pair. While they don't break any new ground on the first single, "Pass That Dutch," which sounds like a reworking of last year's brilliant hit "Work It," they keep the grooves tripping and flipping around with adventurous abandon, from the trash-can sounds of the booming "Wake Up" to the hiccupy effects of the reggaefied "Keep It Movin" to the sirenlike loop of the old-meets-new-school romp "Let It Bump."

Elliott is less successful when she goes it alone on R & B-flavored numbers like the ballads "It's Real" and "Dats What I'm Talkin About," on which she forgoes rapping for singing, with a respectable voice. Still, these tracks show why she herself has been a sought-after producer for singers like Beyoncé, Whitney Houston and Monica. The latter is among many guest artists who appear on the album, including Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, R. Kelly, Elephant Man and Beenie Man. Rapper Fabolous turns up on "Is This Our Last Time," one of several sexually charged cuts. Elliott even raps about vibrators on the disco-ish "Toyz." "I got a bag full of toys," she rhymes, "and I don't need none of you boys."


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