East Meets West on Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On"

Submitted by notoriousclassics on Wed, 03/10/2021 - 22:33
Missy Elliott in 2001

Missy Elliott was already a rapper to watch in the late '90s, but with the March 6, 2001 release of "Get Ur Freak On," she became impossible to ignore for decades to come.

Her quickfire rhymes and impeccable, out-there production from childhood friend and collaborator Timbaland were already on display on tracks like "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" and a remix of "Hot Boyz" featuring Nas, Lil' Mo, Eve and Q-Tip that became her first Top 10 hit in 1999. But "Get Ur Freak On" simply sounded like nothing else on the radio at the time.

The secret was the bhangra style of music that the Punjabi people of India and Pakistan had helped popularize throughout the Western world. Samples of the stringed tumbi and tabla drums were programmed into a keyboard so Tim could play it. Missy's unmistakable vocals, trailing the beat and featuring a number of iconic interjections ("Hollaaaaa," "Is that yo chick?" "QUIET!!"), added another layer of deceptive simplicity to the whole affair.

As the first single from Elliott's Miss E... So Addictive, "Freak" was one of the summer's biggest hits, reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helping the LP reach No. 2, her highest position on the album charts at the time. The song did even better in the U.K., reaching No. 4 - her highest-charting single in the country.