NEW YORK (Billboard) - Rapper Missy Elliott is gearing up to release her first album in three years. Tentatively titled “Block Party” and due in August, the oft-delayed Atlantic release is the follow-up to 2005’s “The Cookbook,” which sold a relatively disappointing 645,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Her best-seller is 2002’s “Under Construction” which sold 2.1 million copies.
Tracks on the new album, Elliott’s seventh, include the drum-heavy “Hip-Hop Don’t Die”; the sensual “Milk & Cookies,” on which Elliot lightheartedly harmonizes about her capabilities in the bedroom; and first single “Best Best.”
To help reintroduce Elliott to the marketplace, Atlantic included two new songs, “Ching-a-Ling” and “Shake Your Pom Pom,” on the “Step Up 2 the Streets” soundtrack in March. The tracks, which will be reprised on “Block Party,” have already sold a combined 296,000 copies digitally.
Elliott will also release a promotional album in mid-summer, “Fanomenal,” which was titled by fans in an online vote and will include exclusive tracks and videos. And, in keeping with the new album title’s theme, Elliott will host a couple of block parties around the July 4 and Labor Day weekends.
On a break from finishing up “Block Party,” the four-time Grammy winner chatted about her new projects, the state of hip-hop, and her lack of interest in digital downloads and ringtones.
YOU RECENTLY HELD A CONTEST WHERE YOUR FANS WERE ABLE TO SUBMIT TITLES FOR THE UPCOMING ALBUM. HAVE YOU CHOSEN ONE YET?
I actually chose two. I‘m releasing a preview to the album in the summer titled “Fanomenal.” When I saw all the people that entered the contest, I was overwhelmed. So I‘m dedicating that one to my fans because they’ve rolled with me since day one. I‘m still up in the air about the name for the actual album, but for now it’s “Block Party.” The reason for that is because there are a lot of dance joints on there. It’s one of those albums you can play out in the streets.
LAST WE CHECKED, YOU WERE EIGHT SONGS IN ON THE ALBUM. HOW FAR ALONG ARE YOU WITH IT NOW?
It’s pretty much done. I probably have one more song to do. I want to keep the album short and sweet. I don’t want one of those albums where you have 20 tracks but only two joints rock.
This album is probably more musical and melodic than my previous ones. A lot of my albums are really hip-hop-driven, with tinges of other music genres. But this album is hip-hop, with a sort of U.K. hip-hop sound to it.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF GO-GO ON THE NEW SONGS?
I love go-go. It has somewhat of an African twist to it with the drums. Something about it feels really good. I have friends that live in (Washington) D.C. and back in the day I didn’t understand that music at all. It sounded like a bunch of trash cans. It wasn’t until I went to see the D.C.-based group Red Essence at a club. I tell you, I’ve been to a trillion clubs, but none like a go-go club. People are in there dirty dancing. It was hot. It’s a whole different ballgame. Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to do a go-go record. Go-go’s been around for so long but it’s never made it across the country or across the world even. The world hasn’t had a chance to see D.C. people get off on their music. That’s why I did the track “Shake Your Pom Pom,” which is most definitely go-go-esque.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SONGS ON THE ALBUM SO FAR?
“Best, Best.” I love that one. It’s not your typical R&B record. It’s more like club R&B with a U.K. hip-hop sound to it. It’s a feel-good record, but at the same time super sexy. It reminds me of when I did “Hot Boyz.” It’s got that same feeling. “Hip-Hop Don’t Die” is another one of my favorites. I love it because I just went in on that record. I don’t think I’ve ever made a record that deep. It was straight rapping, like old-school hip-hop. I‘m usually more comical than that. Plus, it makes sense considering the state of hip-hop.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF HIP-HOP?
Well, if anyone knows me, they’d know I try not to listen to the radio or watch TV. I’ve been doing that since my very first album. I think you can be easily influenced by other music, and before you know it you start doing records that sound like someone else just because you think it’s music that’s working. I hear a lot of great songs. And then I hear some that aren’t so original and creative. Back in the day artists had their own styles. You couldn’t say Heavy D sounded like Rakim, or Salt-N-Pepa sounded like MC Lyte, or Big Daddy Kane sounded like Erick Sermon. These days, people try to follow a formula because they see it’s worked for others. But that keeps them from being original and creative, (or) at least not as original and creative as it used to be before.
HOW DO YOU KEEP UP WITH THE TIMES, CONSIDERING PEOPLE DON‘T BUY PHYSICAL ALBUMS ANYMORE?
That’s a whole other ballgame. I was listening to Chico DeBarge the other day and started to wonder what happened to people who wanted to get the track list and the credits and the lyrics to songs. We don’t have those longevity artists anymore because they cater to the times, focus on ringtones and don’t put efforts into making a great full album. I think people might want to buy albums again if artists stop catering to the times and start making music that makes people want to go out and buy them again. But, it might be a while before that happens since things are so accessible with computers and downloading.