The rapper talks about collaborating with Timbaland, T-Pain, and Danjahandz

After lying low following the release of 2005’s The Cookbook, Missy Elliott has quietly returned with a cameo on ”Let It Go,” the sizzling new single she produced for R&B songbird Keyshia Cole. And come early next year, Elliott, 36, will drop her own, still-untitled album. ”Hip-hop is my first love,” she says. ”I can do a record with George W. Bush, and I’m still gonna come out with a hip-hop record.” With the disc partially completed, rap’s leading lady took a rare break from recording to talk about her highly anticipated seventh CD.

How does it feel to be working with Timbaland for the first time since The Cookbook?
Tim was [busy] getting slim last album. Now he’s [fully] back in the picture, and it feels good. One night, we sat in the studio like, ”We’ve been everywhere from using Japanese sounds to using birds. What do we do at this point?” So it’s been a challenge, but I like that we push each other. Together, we’re always gonna take it as far left as possible without losing people or having them thinking we’re on drugs.

What does your new music with Timbaland sound like?
I love what he did with Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. But for me, I want what I ain’t heard, so we’re coming from another place. But it’s still going to be fun in the club…. Some things you can’t even explain. Like, if I had to explain ”The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” back in the day, I wouldn’t have been able to.

Are you collaborating with any other producers?
I’m going to work with T-Pain. I love all of his records. What he does is genius, even using that [vocoder] thing on his voice. That’s one of those things you hear and you’re like, Why didn’t I do that first?! And I went in the studio with Swizz Beatz. He always got those records that keep you in the club. I also worked with Nate ”Danjahandz” Hills [Britney Spears’ ”Gimme More”]. I’ve worked with Danja since he was [just] Nate. I didn’t even know his name was Danja until recently. Everybody was like, ”Danja,” and I’m like, ”Who?” And then I seen him and I’m like, ”Nate, you Danja?!”

How about cameos?
I can say Keyshia for sure; she owes me one. Keyshia gives you raw, like, ”My life has been hell.” There are a lot more people living that life than the good life, so they can relate to her. I’m quite sure T-Pain’s gonna jump on the track he’s producing. If I could get Jesus on it, I would. But God is always there.

Will a new look accompany the new sound?
I’m most definitely gonna be a lot more edgy with my look. You might see me come out with a beehive like Amy Winehouse. I did a bald head at one time, so who knows?