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From synapse-popping celebrations of lust to joyous rebuttals of industry sexism, we run down the best tracks by R&B’s queen of hedonistic mischief
In the early 90s, New York was home to an R&B collective, the Swing Mob, comparable in talent and influence to the city’s 70s folk scene. Missy Elliott would become its Bob Dylan, a breakout star with a brain full of fireworks, shooting out blazing innovations too fast for her audience to keep up, let alone her rivals. Initially as part of the group Sista, then in partnership with Tim “Timbaland” Mosley, she honed the skills as a singer, rapper, writer, producer and performer that made her own shot at the big time, Supa Dupa Fly, such a commercial and critical success. Yet the album’s most memorable track was one of its least sonically representative: a jaunty, tuneful paean to sex, a subject Elliott has always rejoiced in addressing directly. Constructed around a sample from a Delfonics song, Ready Or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love) – already the basis for a Fugees hit the previous year – Sock It 2 Me was a huge hit in turn, helped along by a characteristically dazzling video by Hype Williams that defied industry expectations by exaggerating rather than playing down Elliott’s body shape. Had this been Missy Elliott’s first single and not her second, it would surely rank among the greatest debuts of all time.