After four years without a single and seven years without a proper album, one-time queen of hip-hop Missy Elliott returned with two new singles last night. Both tracks, “Triple Threat” and “9th Inning,” are produced by longtime Missy collaborator Timbaland, who brings to each one of his usual, dense, eclectic club beats.
After so many years out of the game, can Missy still get her freak on? Neither track strikes me as a monster hit right off the bat, but they more than serve their stated purpose: to reestablish her as a hip-hop heavy hitter. “9th Inning,” the better of the pair, plays with an extended comeback metaphor about the best being back in the game, while “Triple Threat” reminds listeners that she can “Rap, dance, and I’m a singer.” She doesn’t bother reminding the listener that she’s also a producer and a songwriter—but then, on her next track, she won’t have to bother reminding us that she can rap either.
Elliott’s return comes amidst a wave of women tearing up hip-hop, with the new queen Nicki Minaj followed by up-and-comers like Azealia Banks. It’s been suggested that, prior to this new wave, there was only ever one commercially successful female rapper at a given time, but that idea was outdated even during Missy’s peak, when Lil Kim and others were also throwing albums toward the top of the charts. It’s even more outdated now. As long as they can stay current—the reference to collect calls doesn’t exactly help Missy here—there’s always room for unique voices.