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The story behind Missy Elliot’s Cybotron sample on ‘Work It’


(Credit: Alamy/Hip Hop Hero)

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Missy Elliott is one of hip hop’s most cherished female MCs. Rising to prominence by the side of Timbaland in the mid-1990s, the rapper (real name Melissa Elliott) is loved for her funny lyrics, provocative raps and outlandish music videos that leave her listeners windblown.

Known as one of hip-hop’s first mainstream female MCs, Missy is one of the greats. Born and raised in Virginia, the emcee lived with her mother in the Hodges Ferry neighbourhood of Portsmouth, a suburb of Norfolk. This adjacent larger city was home to super-producer Timbaland. With such proximity, the two ended up connecting via the local music scene, and the two became close friends.

After becoming members of the local crew Swing Mob, the rappers rose to fame during the mid-’90s. However, her career would not begin properly until she departed from Swing Mob with Timbaland. Together, the two continued to make music working behind the scenes writing and producing for R’n’B acts, such as Aaliyah, SWV and Total. In 1997, Elliott released her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, and with it her career skyrocketed.

Missy has had her fair share of hit albums and hit singles. Her 2002 album Under Construction performed exceptionally well, with its lead single ‘Work It’ becoming an anthem of the decade. However, Elliott’s 2005 project, The Cookbook, performed just as well and featured one memorable song. ‘Lose Control’. Released as the lead single for the rapper’s sixth album, the track is primarily based around one sample, and it is from the 1983 electro song ‘Clear’ by Cybotron.

Formed in 1980 by Juan Atkins and Richard ‘3070’ Davis, Cybotron were a product of Michigan’s underground electro scene. Originally a duo, by 1983, the group became a trio with the arrival of instrumentalist John Housely. Before electro, Cybotron had dabbled in house music, Detroit’s most dominant scene at the time. However, influenced by Kraftwerk, akin to New York’s Afrika Bambaataa, the group focused on electro.

Although the legacy of Cybotron is one of a Midwestern electro trio, they were also an integral part of the creation of techno. This is evidenced by their first single, ‘Alleys of Your Mind’ released in 1981. Clear, which came out two years later, was their first real hit and was sold by the San Francisco-based independent label Fantasy. The crew were subsequently featured in the prestigious music publication The Wire. It was here that the group’s single was described as a “groundbreaking…first-generation piece of pure machine music.” The single sold over 50,000 copies and was rumoured to be an interpolation of the intro to the 1977 Kraftwerk track ‘Hall Of Mirrors’.

‘Clear’ was released on the album Enter, and Elliott it is not the only artist who has chosen to sample the infectious beat. The instrumental is featured in Poison Clan’s ‘Shake Whatcha Mama Gave Ya’ as well as T.I and Rico Love’s 2010 track ‘Lay Me Down’. Elliot’s revamped version also features vocals from the 1983 single ‘Body Work’ by Hot Streak. This contains the lyric, “Music make you lose control,” hence why the song is titled ‘Lose Control.’ You can hear all the samples in the videos below.