Last week, Missy Elliott surprised the crowd at Timbaland’s show at Highline Stages–sponsored by Hennessey’s Wild Rabbit promotional campaign–by showing up and performing a couple of songs with her old production partner. Videos of the event show a pink Adidas track suit-clad Elliott confidently holding it down as the audience holds up their camera phones in digital witness to the return of one of the late ‘90s/early aughts’ most popular recording artists. Naturally, several sections of the Internet picked up the news, with Spin being brash enough to utter the word “comeback.” If we’re being realistic though, we probably have to ask ourselves how feasible a comeback for Elliott is.
Her seventh studio album is currently scheduled to drop in June, but the release of the tentatively titled Block Party has already been pushed back several times. In Youtube comments, fans ask what happened to Missy, as if she went into the west at the end of Return of the King. But if you go look at the sales and chart performance of her records, it’s not hard to see; Elliott released four albums that did extremely well, and then two albums that only did okay. After an artist drops two underperforming albums in a row, it’s not uncommon for them to go away for a while.
The other thing to consider is how Missy fits in the current Top 40 landscape; a few weeks ago I walked into a convenience store when “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” came on, and I was struck by how different it was than pretty much every thing that charts in 2012. In a landscape where the two most talked-about female MCs are Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks, both gleefully crude, abrasive personalities, Missy’s more mature, less neon personality doesn’t beg your attention as much.
Pretty much anyone who can remember “Work It” or “Get Ur Freak On” would have to up-vote a return to prominence from one of the previous decade’s most engaging recording artists, but all of the fans probably aren’t asking the question that Missy’s label execs probably started asking after This Is Not a Test disappointed in 2003: “Is she marketable?” We’ll find out.