Photo: Emma McIntyre/Contributor via Getty Images
  /  03.08.2018

Growing up in Virginia in the late 1990s and early 2000s was a magical time because the very best artists and producers had roots in the Commonwealth and were making it big. D’Angelo, Timbaland and Magoo, Pharrell & the Neptunes, the Clipse, Jodeci’s Devante Swing and Mr. Dalvin—all crucial in creating the sounds that dominated black music from 1993 to 2003. But it was Portsmouth’s Melissa “Missy” Elliott, the lone woman in that bumper crop of talent who carved a path for women during that time, and still does today.

Like looking at the rings of a tree to tell its age, you can extract a slice of Missy Elliott’s discography and precisely tell where I was in life when the song came out. “Lose Control” lines up with my college years, when making class and going to sweatbox parties were the norm. “Take Away” brings back memories of the junior year of high school, when black girls everywhere were still grieving Aaliyah’s death. “The Rain,” off of her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, calls up the carefree days of middle school watching The Box, mimicking the herky-jerk movements of Elliott in a Hefty bag. And even if Missy’s own songs don’t follow you, her production credits will. Her résumé is long and deep with both her own hits and those she has written for others.

Setting the stage

By the time Missy dropped her first album, 1997’s Supa Dupa Fly, she had already racked up a slew of songwriting credits and guest appearances. Her work with artists like Jodeci and Aaliyah, and the unique sound she created with collaboration partner Timbaland, meant that she had the bona fides to be successful out of the gate. Still, she didn’t fit the mold of a typical R&B singer or hip-hop act in the late 90s.

In a 2012 interview on Sway’s Universe, she describes why her debut as a solo artist was so groundbreaking. “At that time, you know everybody was in the little bathing suits and stuff, and you had the big girl come in this trash bag,” she said. “Everybody had the good Indian weaves and here I come with the fingerwaves with the black gel, so I was just totally the opposite, but I think it gave it some type of balance.”

Missy was everything that typical women in hip-hop and R&B were not: she was big, brown, and her style was femme but not oversexualized. Not only did she look fundamentally different from everyone in the market, she also sounded unlike anything else. She spoke about her debut in a 1997 news segment with MTV’s Kurt Loder this way: “The melodies are odd, you know, and we kind of make it alternative at the same time. So it’s got like a futuristic feel and an alternative feel to it.”

She wore her weirdness as armor, and her “otherness” made it work. Missy operated in a structurally different way than music of her contemporaries by creating a new language, both spoken (her ad libs alone are indecipherably cool) and visual (see: her personal style, her dance moves, every element of her videos).

Outsized impact

A scroll through her Instagram will give you just a taste of how many hearts, minds, and ears she’s reached through her innovative genius. She highlights her work with SWV, Monica, Fantasia, Ciara, as well as dispenses thoughtful advice with only a Sharpie and lined journal paper. Missy’s popularity has only grown bigger since her performance at the 2015 Super Bowl. Now, she’s tapped to star in its Halftime commercials. Many people (rightly) point to artists like Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill as seminal figures whose art helped them explore their selfhood. But Missy Elliott has served as a secret fairy godmother, waving her wand of talent and production skills over all of hip-hop and R&B, constantly innovating to create sounds that are both fresh, strange, and soulful.

Missy showing up as her authentic self as a solo artist served as a blueprint for other women that came after her; for big girls, for girls who want to dance, girls with talent whose femininity is not coquettish or doe-eyed. Without Missy, we don’t get acts like H.E.R. or Syd or JunglePussy who are able to present their versions of black womanhood in hip-hop so effortlessly.

In this era of movements that actively work to center black people and people of color, women, and queer folks, Missy’s work feels like a prediction for where we are culturally today. Her commitment to working with and uplifting other women of color in her work is the embodiment of #BlackGirlMagic. Her ethos of leaning into her otherness to innovate, instead of denying it, is the same spirit that permeates the creative work of duo The Black Joy Mixtape or operations like political consulting firm Three Point Strategies.

Missy Elliott is a time-traveler who modeled the creative future and laid the groundwork for the artists that came after her.



View More



View More


Walmart has everything you need for the tech enthusiast on your shopping list

Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.

  /  11.10.2023

5 things you need to know about the 2023 Billboard Music Awards

“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.

  /  11.20.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicks off at Central State University

On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.

  /  11.14.2023

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour visited Mississippi Valley State University

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.

  /  11.22.2023

Walmart has the home essentials for everyone on your holiday shopping list

Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.

  /  11.24.2023

Walmart continues HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour during lively Virginia State University stop

After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.

  /  11.14.2023

Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University

On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

  /  11.15.2023

Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'

Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.

  /  11.15.2023

Pheelz talks expressing himself through music & his biggest inspirations | 'On In 5'

On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!

  /  07.11.2023

Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'

On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!

  /  07.10.2023

Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'

On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.

  /  07.12.2023

BNXN talks leaving IT for music, linking with Wizkid, going viral & new album | 'On In 5'

For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!

  /  08.08.2023

From city lots to lush gardens: The power of urban farming with Karen Washington

This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.

  /  11.17.2023

Investing in stocks in a recession | 'Maconomics'

Host Ross Mac provides useful advice for preparing your personal finances in the event of a recession. He emphasizes the importance of budgeting properly, building an emergency fund, and maintaining discipline when investing.

  /  11.21.2023

Madam DA Fani Willis proclaims, “A lie has been told on African American men”

“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.

  /  10.11.2023

Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money

At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money. 

  /  10.26.2023

Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling

“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.

  /  11.03.2023

Machel Montano opens up about life as a child star, new music, and exciting business moves

In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, Machel Montano dove into his musical journey, childhood stardom, and an exciting new chapter in business.

  /  11.03.2023

Halftime Report | Professional athletes who've dropped rap albums

From Master P to Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Deion Sanders, Damian Lillard and more, these athletes got bars. Check out our list here!

  /  11.01.2023

Lauren London says Nipsey Hussle inspired her eldest son’s interest in finances

“I have those conversations with my son about abundance,” Lauren London said at REVOLT WORLD. 

  /  11.06.2023
View More
Revolt - New Episodes