Missy Elliott The Cookbook

Miss E may be many things — rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, even a reality TV "star” — but she is not an album-oriented artist. Oh, she’ll trick ya, but only because her catalogue boasts so many insane singles you forget the weak filler. Cookbook adheres to this same recipe, despite the absence of partner Timbaland who shows up for only two tracks rather than his usual full-meal deal. While this gives Missy a chance to broaden her sci-fi sound, it also enables an over reliance on blah R&Ballads that reveals one other thing Missy is not is Mary J (who shows up and also goes against type by rapping on "My Struggles”). But when she does spit, Missy continues to do so with absurdist glee and occasionally gets to rock rhymes over the jaw-dropping funk we’ve come to expect. The Neptunes bolster their rep with the minimalist bubbles’n’bass of "On & On,” Missy drops a bomb with electro-fied booty-tech single "Lose Control,” battles Rich Harrison’s horns on "Can’t Stop” and trades reggae-inflected flows with M.I.A. on "Bad Man.” Cookbook’s considerably stronger than her last rush-release, but we’re still left waiting for Missy to challenge the palette from first course to dessert. (Atlantic)