How Missy Elliott’s influence impacted an entire generation
In honor of her new Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, let’s examine all of the innovations that the famed rapper has made in music and culture throughout her career.
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— By Dontaira Terrell
This year, at a glance, was a huge one for Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott. As the first female rapper to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the Video Music Awards on Monday (Aug. 26) night, it’s clear that her dominance in the industry is unyielding, and her substantial influence has left an imprint on a slew of artists from all genres.
During the VMAs, rapper Lizzo posed the question, “Where would hip hop be without Missy Elliott?” And mega-producer Timbaland reminded us, “People wouldn’t do the videos they are doing today if it wasn’t for [her].” The 48-year-old has tremendously impacted the game and is truly one-of-a-kind. She is known for pushing creative boundaries with confidence, charisma, and exceptional ease. Being in the game for more than 20 years, the Virginia native has influenced the music industry with new fashion, era-defining videos, innovative dance moves, and bold lyrical content. On top of that, Elliott has made a name for herself by crafting so many 90s and early 2000 anthems, and classic hits that black women can unapologetically relate to.
Just last week, the internet was abuzz after she dropped her EP Iconology, and a music video for “Throw it Back,” a song from the five-track project. It was both refreshing and nostalgic to witness the creative aesthetic of the “Supa Dupa Fly” star back in her element. It also came as no surprise that the lead visual for the project instantly became the number one trending music video on YouTube.
Although the trailblazing songwriter stepped out of the immediate spotlight for several years, her widespread impact is extremely relevant. Weekly podcast “The Read’s” hosts Kid Fury and Crissle West, and superfans worldwide championed for her comeback and for her to also receive the Video Vanguard Award. Fast forward and campaigning for her continued success paid off, and spoke to the indelible footprint that she has deeply embedded in the culture.
After killing the stage during her performance and recreating a few of her iconic videos such as “Lose Control,” “Pass That Dutch,” and “Work It,” the star humbly accepted her Moonman trophy. The trailblazing talent made sure to thank her loyal day ones when she said, “I have worked diligently for over two decades. It means so much to me. I promise it doesn’t go unnoticed, the love and support y’ all have shown me over the years.”
Although the accolades and recognitions are incredible, this honor was long overdue. Not only has Elliott killed the game on her own with Billboard-charting hits, but she has also collaborated and penned tracks for other legendary artists including Janet Jackson, J. Cole, JAY-Z, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé; and the late singers, Whitney Houston and Aaliyah. Even former first lady Michelle Obama shared her admiration for the legendary emcee in an episode of “Carpool Karaoke,” as she belted out the lyrics word for word to Elliott’s song “Get Ur Freak On.”
Since rising to stardom in 1996 after Diddy put her on the map with a solo artist feature on Gina Thompson’s “The Things You Do,” Elliott’s musical journey has been unstoppable. It opened the door for her to bless an entire generation with her out-of-the-box thinking and risk-taking concepts. With this song, she gained notoriety and caught the attention of mainstream media, thanks to her signature “hee hee how” catchphrase.
Elliott proudly rocks an “Iconic” nameplate around her neck because her grit, grind, tenacity, and fearlessness have awarded her the title. With more than 30 million albums sold and each one of her six studio albums being RIAA platinum-certified, she has the coveted honor of being one of the best-selling female artists of all time. Elliott is the only female rapper who has been able to achieve this. Respect!
Breaking barriers yet again in January, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame by becoming the first female hip hop artist to receive this merit. In an official statement released by the organization, they confirmed what the hip hop community has stated for years, “Missy Elliott is a groundbreaking solo superstar, pioneering songwriter-producer, and across-the-board cultural icon.”
In case you needed more evidence as to why the Virginia native is one of the greatest or you had an ounce of doubt about the five-time Grammy-award winner, she solidified her position in her latest statement, saying, “Don’t look for another Missy, [because] there’ll be no other one.” Undeniably, she is one of the best ever to do it. PERIODT.
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