There’s no denying the impact that Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott has had on America’s soundtrack. The four time GRAMMY winning singer-songwriter/producer/rapper Melissa Arnette Elliot was the top female hip hop album seller through the late 90s and early 2000s. She has been nominated for GRAMMYS 22 times, and sold over 30 million records worldwide. Her chart topping hits included “Hot Boyz” “Lose Control” “Get Your Freak On” and “Work It” which won a GRAMMY in 2004 for Best Female Rap Solo Performance and MTV’s Video of the Year Award.
Treating music videos like an art form is something that Missy Elliott has learned from the architect of short films also known as videos from the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. This month, the hip hop mogul will be the first female rapper to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 36th annual MTV Music Awards. Elliott’s music embodies themes such as gender equality, body positivity, and feminism blazing the pathway for those to follow in her path. “‘I am a champion for my brown, dark women,” hit-maker said in an interview. “I want them to be seen. Because we are beautiful. If we knew how special we were, we would be unstoppable.”
Elliot was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and eventually formed the girl group Fayze, writing most of their material and working with friend, and now super producer Timbaland. Jodeci’s Devante’ Swing was impressed with the group, brought them to New York, changed the name to Sista and signed to Swing’s Elektra Records Mob imprint. The group disbanded a short time later, but Missy went on to form a songwriting/producing team with Timbaland and they took off successfully producing and writing hits for artists like Aaliyah, Gina Thompson, Raven Simone, Ginuwine, SWV, Whitney Houston and more. She wrote and rapped on her first hit, “That’s What Little Girls are Made of,” for Raven Symone in 1993.
In 1996 she co-wrote Aaliyah’s number one R&B/Hip Hop hits “One in a Million” and “If Your Girl Only Knew.” The first single, “If Your Girl Only Knew,” went double platinum and contains Timbaland’s signature syncopated beats and Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s lyrics.
She debuted as a featured vocalist on Sean Puffy Combs’s remix of Gina Thompson’s “The Things You Do,” which she also co-wrote.
Her resume led her to her own record deal with Elektra and an imprint, GoldMine, where she released her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly in 1997. The album went platinum and had hits like “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” “Sock it 2 Me,” and “Beep me 911.”
The 90s ended with two writing/producing credits on Whitney Houston’s My Love is Your Love album and her resume lengthened with hits like Nicole’s “Make it Hot,” Total’s “Trippin,” and 702’s “Where My Girls At?”
Missy released Da Real World album in 1999 featuring the number one hit “Hot Boyz.”
n 2001, she released Miss E… So Addictive which garnered her GRAMMY winning song, “Get Ur Freak On.” She released Under Construction in 2002 which went double platinum with features with TLC, Beyonce, Jay Z and the hits “Work It” and “Gossip Folks.”
In 2003, her album This is Not a Test included the hits “Pass that Dutch” and “I’m Really Hot.”
In 2005, she released The Cookbook with the GRAMMY nominated “We Run This” and the classic “Lose Control.”
Missy took hip hop to new levels pushing boundaries with her creative style and ground breaking videos, making her one of the most sought after producer/writers.
Moving Forward Despite Challenges
Her success wasn’t without some tragedy. Her friend and recording artist, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in 2001, shortly after she suffered her own health challenges. In 2008, Elliott was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that caused her to step away from the spotlight, but she continued to write and produce for artists including, Jennifer Hudson, Keyshia Cole, Monica and more. She has collaborated on projects with Katy Perry, Eve, Kelly Rowland and Fantasia. In 2015, she returned with the Pharrell produced single, “WTF (Where They From),” and performed at the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
In 2016, she appeared with Former First Lady Michelle Obama on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.
In 2018, she reunited with Ciara for the “Level Up” remix.
Just this year, Missy collaborated with Lizzo for the single, “Tempo.”
On May 11, Elliott received her doctorate in music. On June 13, she became the first female hip-hop artist inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. On August 23, she dropped a five song EP, Iconology, her first original project in 14 years. The surprise project features production from Timbaland, Wili Hendrix and Elliott herself. The project also comes with a classic Missy vibe video to go with the lead single, “Throw It Back.”
Missy has influenced many artists styles today whether they realize it or not. Her impact is embedded into hip hop and R&B culture. In her interview with Marie Claire, she sums it up best; “there’s no one like Missy. No one.” We agree.