The (slow) return of Missy Elliott continues with 'I'm Better'

Nearly a dozen years have passed since the last time Missy Elliott put out an album. The wait for the comeback of hip-hop’s most innovative, eccentric voice has been frustrating — to say the least — but the wait appears to be ending. 

As most of us slept, Elliott dropped a new single and visual while teasing the forthcoming release of a documentary that will offer insight into her creative insight and, hopefully, coincide with her return. 

The new single, “I’m Better,” is a bouncy, trap-influenced record that’s a bit more on trend than we would have expected from an MC who has effortlessly reinvigorated hip-hop with her releases.

Of course, in true Elliott fashion, the real focus here is the visual, and it’s another quirky, eye-popping dive into the mind of the groundbreaking performer. 

Co-directed with her longtime collaborator Dave Myers — he’s helmed some of her most famous, mind-boggling clips, including “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Pass That Dutch” — there’s underwater dancing (on medicine balls at that), lasers, swinging from ceilings and plenty of futuristic twerking.

Elliott has been slowly making a return in recent years following 2005’s “The Cookbook.” In 2008 she emerged with a handful of colorful tracks — “Ching-a-Ling,” “Shake Your Pom Pom” and “Best, Best” — that signaled the arrival of what was to be her seventh album, then titled “Block Party.” 

Then she went away. Four years later, in late 2012, she then dropped a pair of singles, “9th Inning” and “Triple Threat,” which reunited her with longtime collaborator Timbaland. But still, no release date for an album.

Although she was off the radar as an artist, she was heavily in demand as a producer and lent guest vocals to hits for J. Cole, Jazmine Sullivan, Fantasia, Keyshia Cole and others. 

Part of Elliott’s absence was due to a battle with Graves' disease, an autoimmune illness that affects the thyroid, and she opened up about her break in an interview with The Times in 2011.

“Well, I had gotten sick, that was one thing. A lot of people don’t know that before the artist, I wanted to be a writer and producer. That’s always been a love of mine. It’s easy for me to do it on myself, but it's fun to create for someone else,” she said. “I got caught up in doing records for other artists. I just stayed behind the scenes, and time just kind of passed. And then I had to deal with an illness that took up some time. Now it’s time to concentrate on Missy.”

And in 2015, her comeback finally began to feel real when she popped up at the Super Bowl and pretty much stole the halftime show from headliner Katy Perry with a medley of her biggest, era-defining hits.

Months after that victory, she released the bonkers “WTF (Where They From)” and quickly followed with “Pep Rally” — but still, no album. 

The documentary seems to cover the reasoning behind her lengthy creative process. 

"It's never just a record for me," Elliott says in the documentary trailer. "It's never just making a hot record. I can do that in my sleep. But visually I have to see what I'm going to do with that record when I perform it."

Watch the video for “I’m Better” below:

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