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Meaning of the song ‘Work It’ by ‘Missy Elliott’

Released: 2002

“Work It” by Missy Elliott is an iconic hip-hop track that blends sensuality, assertiveness, and wit in a powerful lyrical composition. Emphasizing the artist’s confident sexuality and assertive approach to life, the track offers an empowering message for all the strong women out there, dominating in every aspect while also expressing sexual liberation.

The initial verse and chorus are densely packed with intriguing wordplay. The infamous line “I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it,” refers to her dominance in the music industry, her unique style, and the innovative techniques she employs in her songs while also being a clever allusion to the process of record scratching typically used by hip-hop DJs. The seemingly nonsensical lines “Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup I” are, in fact, the previous line played backwards, a testament to Missy Elliott’s prowess in pushing hip-hop boundaries.

Missy empowers femininity and advocates sexual freedom “If you’re a fly gal get your nails done” and later authoritatively saying: “Girls, get that cash.” The song also contains subtle social commentary interwoven with sexual innuendos reflecting the rapper’s audacity. The phrase “Go downtown and eat it like a vulture” is a bold call for men to equally participate in sexual pleasure, challenging the traditional expectations of women’s roles in the bedroom.

The main hook of “Is it worth it, let me work it” indicates Missy’s exerted effort in success, not only in her musical career but also in sexual context. Further illustrating her influence, she compares her appeal to that of a “Halle Berry poster” and reminds menfolk to appreciate her success and sex appeal combined.

Her transparency about embracing her body image and advocating for body positivity is clear in “Love the way my ass go bum-bum-bum-bum.” Then she challenges the stereotype about women’s demureness in sex with lines like “Take my thong off and my ass go vroom.”

The verse “Just ’cause I got a lot of fame supa / Prince couldn’t get me change my name papa / Kunta Kinte a slave again, no sir” captures her resistance to conforming to industry pressures. These lines contain references to the artist ‘Prince’ who had to change his name due to contractual issues, and ‘Kunta Kinte’, a character from Alex Haley’s novel ‘Roots’, underscoring her refusal to let the music industry limit her creative control and identity.

All in all, “Work It” is a bold testament to Missy Elliott’s unmatched power, innovative spirit, and her role as a trendsetter in the male-dominated field of rap music. The lyrical cleverness, amusing references, and assertive sexuality presented in the song, make it a much-celebrated anthem of empowerment.

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