ALTHOUGH YOU WON'T FIND ANYBODY THAT will 'fess up to it today, you can still feel the reverberations that happened last spring around the time of Lauryn Hill's third Grammy -- when a nation of millions gasped in collective disbelief, "Just who is this bitch, anyway?" Then, during a speech two more Grammys later, Hill herself gushed, "I mean, dag y'all, this is hiphop. This is strange." Indeed, a lot of people who were supposed to know better were oddly pressed to explain something they had taken for granted minutes earlier -- the fully exposed, ugly sentiment that five Grammys don't belong in the hands of a young woman of color. Even within these pages, without any allusion to Hill's talent or previous accomplishment, the sister was referred to as the "Don Henley of hiphop," and a figment of fantasy "to buppies everywhere," which still resonates in my ears as a plain admission that there are still some places that some people ain't supposed to go.

I'm bringing this up now because it's my estimable guess that the question is going to be raised again, in just a few minutes, in regard to Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. I heard murmurs of it last year when Missy floated fly in and out of Gap and Sprite commercials. A winter earlier, Missy's first CD, Supa Dupa Fly, made it on a shitload of critics' top 10 lists. Now that her second CD, Da Real World, is out, you'll notice her name on the cover of a few magazines -- not that you'd see her. It could take a while to get some real glimpses of her, because not only is Missy darker than blue, she's also thick. You know, big boned. Chunky. Fun to ride until your friends see ya. I understand the wisdom of the folks over at Vibe magazine when they put Jennifer Lopez on the cover of the August issue, while placing "Missy Elliott" at the top of the list of the folks they promise to feature. (Inside, they did run two pictures of Missy -- one is a Saturday morning animation-style drawing, the other is a picture of her in "it'll make you look thinner" black.)

Not that Miss Supa Dupa Fly can give a fuck. The first single of the CD -- titled "She's a B**ch" -- raises the ante even before you hear it. She gleefully calls herself a b**ch throughout the new CD. Other womens is b**ches. Other mens is b**ches. Other women call her a b**ch. Other men call other women b**ches, namely the omnipresent Eminem, here reprising his Slim Shady bidness on "Busa Rhyme," whereas I'm the first n*gg*r to admit I don't like this "b**ch" bidness. In Da Real World, the one in which me and Missy and Slim Shady and prolly you live, canine is most queen. Or as George Clinton -- who oughtta know -- says, if you gonna be a dog, then your momma's gotta be a b**ch.

Because Missy has already sold a million of that other CD, she figures her license to just be Missy is a given, and as such, she can tell it like she needs to without apology. In Da Real World, if a man steps to you, he's prolly somebody else's man. If you the one to step to a man, then you better have more than game. In the tracks "All in My Grill" and "You Don't Know (Who Ya F'in With)," Missy confronts playa and momma drama heads up. In the truncated interlude "Checkin' for You" (featuring veteran shit talkin' garbage mouth, Lil' Kim), and "Stickin' Chickens," Missy does the steppin', but has to reiterate what she has and what she wants for the umpteenth time. Missy keeps the braggadocio fresh, biting her raps with the confidence of her independence.

When Missy sings -- because in Da Real World you gotta sing (and write and produce and run shit) -- she represents with caress and punch. Missy doesn't over-sing or yodel like most of her contemporaries; she's not tryna convince the listener of much more than what's already there. In Da Real World's only true ballad, "Crazy Feelings," it's evident that Missy can sing -- she uses that voice that caught the attention of Whitney and Janet. For my money, my sole complaint about the new CD is that there isn't enough of Missy's singing.

And don't believe what you've read about Missy and co-producer Timbaland abandoning those trademark beats of theirs. My favorite cut (so far) -- the shoulder-shrugging bounce of "U Can't Resist" -- could be one of the anthems of summer '99 (provided we still have some summer left here at the end of July).

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