The album's musical tracks begin with something almost blasphemous to the church of Timbaland: a James Brown sample. From there, classic hip-hop samples repeatedly crack tracks, often running alongside Tim's futuristic funk. The result is reverent and progressive at once.
Under Construction is like a hip-hop museum tour. Old-school references are too numerous to catalogue, but they include creased jeans, Kangols, fat laces, block parties, the Real Roxanne, Beastie Boys, EPMD, MC Lyte, and Treacherous Three -- sometimes all on the same track. "Back in the Day" is self-explanatory but makes its emotional point, allowing Jay-Z to name-check history: "My Uzi weighs a ton/This is our house -- run." Missy even reimagines "Bring the Pain" and recruits Method Man to transform his macho rumble into a dance-floor flirtation.
The past and future merge most on the jaw-dropping "Work It." Tim's beats blend effortlessly with turntable scratching and hard-rocked bells courtesy of Run-D.M.C.'s "Peter Piper." Here, even the English language is unfit to serve Missy's high-level adenoidal delivery; she resorts to speaking in tongues, a technique echoed by "Double Dutch Bus." On individual tracks, the heavy use of well-worn hip-hop references has some novelty, but it doesn't completely sustain itself. In truth, most of the album's sea of samples can be found on a single volume of Ultimate Break Beats, and without highly creative placement, many become too thin, too fast. Under Construction isn't Missy Elliott's most enduring work, but her full-length tribute to the happier, less-destructive roots of hip-hop is encouraging and funky fresh.