First off, this is not in contention for best hip-hop album of the year. On the other hand, however, it may very well be the most cleverly conceived album [hip-hop or otherwise] released in the first eight months of 2005. The concept shines, the guests shine, and, at least when she’s following someone else’s lead, Missy shines.
The Cookbook is a departure from Missy of the past. Timbaland contributes only a few beats, the rest of the tracks supplied by a bevy of producers (Scott Stroch and the Neptunes are highlights) and by Missy herself. Rather than creating an album that shows off her own flow or production talents, Elliott seems to have crafted a mixtape which happens to include a lot of her material. The blending of styles does create a pleasant multi-course meal, however, no meal this lengthy is without a few lulls in conversation.
The unfortunate lulls include “4 My Man,” “Meltdown,” and “Remember When.” Though in the past Missy has created hits by singing a hook like the R&B star that she isn’t, these tracks feel slow and unnecessary. While the love songs give the audience a chance to digest the more conventional Missy tracks, they also distract significantly from the feeling of focus. They feel like an experiment that, though heartfelt, can only end in dissapointment for both the artist and the fans, as with Queen Latifah’s “The Dana Owens Album.” Not technically flawed, they simply can’t elicit the same kind of enjoyment as “Party Time” or “Click Clack.”
The album standouts are definitely the collaborations with rappers. Slick Rick’s guest spot on “Irresistible Delicious,” Mike Jones (who?) on the Timbaland produced “Joy” and Grand Puba on “My Struggles” all feel deliciously old school. Missy manages to sound more as if she’s the one on guest duty. Especially on “Irresistible Delicious,” Elliott mimics the cadence and tone of Slick Rick, Jones, and Grand Puba as well as anyone could be expected to. “On and On,” produced by the Neptunes, allows Missy the standard rapper braggadaccio [“Missy be the name and y’all should already know”] over a gritty bubblegum beat reminiscent of last years “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Finally, for a touch of reggae, the album’s closer “Bad Man” features 2005’s darling M.I.A. as well as Vybez Cartel and the Atlanta A&T drumline. It creates a dark mania which flows naturally from the album’s darker tones and leaves the listener surprisingly satisfied and something sonically akin to full.
Release date: July 5, 2005
Label: Goldmind/Atlantic Recording Corporation, Inc
Rating: 7.0 / 10
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