Five Reasons Missy Elliott Should Be in the Rock Hall of Fame
Missy Elliott has broken down just about every barrier there is.
Born an only child in 1971 in Portsmouth, Va., Elliott grew up singing in church choirs and knew from the time she was small that performance was her destiny.
When she was 20 years old, she formed an all-female R&B group with friends called Fayze, which was later renamed Sista. Another neighborhood friend, Timothy Mosley, known as Timbaland, came on as their producer. Within the same year, they'd caught the attention of Elektra Records and signed a deal as part of their Swing Mob hip-hop collective. She excelled as a producer and writer for other artists (including Raven-Symone, Aaliyah and Busta Rhymes), before breaking out on her own as a wildly popular solo star.
From the mid-'90s onward, Elliott not only paved the way as one of the most successful female rappers, producers and writers but also effectively changed the way hip-hop, pop and R&B could look and sound for all. Here are Five Reasons Missy Elliott Should Be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
She Changed the Face of Hip Hop With 'Supa Dupa Fly'
It isn't very often that an act affects the entire sound of a genre with their debut album, but that's precisely what Elliott did with 1997's Supa Dupa Fly, which included the hit single "Sock It 2 Me." Timbaland's futuristic production style combined with Elliott's epic personality on an innovative album unlike anything else in hip hop. The LP also pulled elements of electronic music and soul and was unafraid to utilize jarring rhythms and digital-heavy patterns that blew away critics and listeners. There are two categories of hip hop: Before Supa Dupa Fly and after.
She's Also a Prolific Producer and Founded a Record Label
Before releasing Supa Dupa Fly, Elliott focused mostly on a career working with others, both writing and producing, making her one of the rare Black female producers in the industry. She has continued this work throughout her entire career, while also often contributing vocals to a variety of other artists' albums. Here is a short list of some of her most notable collaborations: Mariah Carey, 1997's Butterfly, Puff Daddy & the Family, 1997's No Way Out, Melanie B of the Spice Girls, 1998's Hot, Whitney Houston, 1998's My Love Is Your Love, Destiny's Child, 1999's The Writing's on the Wall, Mary J. Blige, 2002's No More Drama and Beyonce, 2003's Dangerously in Love, among many others. Elliott has also co-produced all six of her albums and launched her record label, the Goldmind Inc., in 1997.
She's One of the Most Successful Female Rappers of All Time
Let's talk numbers, starting with Supa Dupa Fly. The LP debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 3 — the highest debut for a female rapper at that time — and stayed on the chart for 37 weeks. Supa Dupa Fly sold 129,000 copies in the first week alone and was certified platinum two months later. She's won four Grammys, eight MTV Video Music Awards, two American Music Awards and six BET Awards. All six of her albums have landed in the Top 15. All of them earned platinum status at least once, and some two times over. In 2019, she became the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and her 2023 nomination for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame also makes her the first female rapper to be so honored. There's a reason she's been dubbed the "Queen of Rap."
Her Music Videos Are Unmatched
Even Elliott herself kind of can't believe the innovation of her music videos, which became known for their experimental, off-kilter style, complete with myriad dancers, vibrant colors and bold fashion statements. "At the time I was doing it, those videos, I didn't think much of it," she told Billboard in 2016. "I thought they were hot, but I didn't critique it or go into detail or say, ‘Oh, this is some next-level [stuff].' ... But the other day when I looked at them, I was like, 'These videos are insane.'" In 2019, she was the first female rapper to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award from MTV and came in at No. 5 in 2020 on Billboard's list of 100 Greatest Music Video Artists of All Time.
She Paved the Way for Artists Like Beyonce, Lizzo and Others
There is an endless number of contemporary artists who have been influenced by Elliott, both musically and visually, both male and female, from Cardi B to Janelle Monae and Tyler, the Creator to Anderson.Paak. (Beyonce's "Signs" was co-written by Elliott and features her vocals.) Lizzo perhaps summed it up best in 2021 when Elliott was granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "You have no idea what you have done for so many Black girls," Lizzo said. "We don't deserve you. We don't deserve Missy Elliott, and still, you continue to give to us and you've given with your heart, your genius. Let me just drop some words: Genius! Icon! Queen of hip-hop! Visionary!"