Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on MadameNoire on July 1, 2015
Like most Black girls around the world, Missy Elliott is an inspiration to us. Supa Dupa Fly was the first time I saw and felt myself represented in Hip-Hop. And in addition to her musical genius, Missy, also taught us the invaluable lesson that you can make it all the way to the top and be beloved the world over just by being exactly who you are. In honor of the legacy of the rapper, entertainer, singer, producer, and all around renaissance woman, here are 10 ways she forever changed the game.
If you’ve seen Missy Elliott’s “Behind The Music,” you know that she got one of several big breaks when she finally got the chance to work with Puff Daddy. He asked her to be a part of the 1996 remix of Gina Thompson’s song “The Things That You Do.” The song was the one and only time Thompson appeared on the Billboard charts, but Missy’s “He-He-Haw” line seemed to singlehandedly launch her into mainstream consciousness, where she would remain, until today.
The Trash Bag
You’ll find that I reference that “Behind The Music” episode quite often. That is because it was so informative. As Missy’s career was on the rise, she was also writing for other artists, including little Raven-Symone. She penned a rhyme for her hit song “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” But when it came time to shoot the music video, Missy wasn’t asked to participate because record executives told her she didn’t fit “the look” for the video.
After she got over the hurt, she decided that she was going to always be herself, even outrageously so, to show them that she could make it anyway. Which is what she did in her first video “I Can’t Stand The Rain” by wearing that trash bag looking jumpsuit.
“One Minute Man”
Missy Elliott certainly wasn’t the first female artist to assert her sexuality. But what I appreciated was that she was one of the few women who had the “nerve” to tell men not only what she was going to do to them but what she would and wouldn’t tolerate in the bedroom. It was way past time that someone let them know.
Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now
And she explained herself and her willingness to talk about sex, in a bit of stream of consciousness PSA, on the outro for her song “Pussycat” aka “Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now.”
“You know what kill me about people? They be like ‘Why you got to sing all these nasty songs?’ Why yo mouth so trashy?’ …But see I be representin’ for the ladies. Cuz we got something to say. We been quiet too long. We’ve been real ladylike. Real patient. We didn’t get mad when Prince had his butt cheeks out. We thought he was going to turn around to the front and maybe have that out too. We was disappointed. You know? But things happen. We don’ dealt with guys saying stuff, what they gon do to us in the bedroom on wax. So I had to represent for my ladies and school them on how to keep they man on lock. Sex is an issue we like to sweep under the rug but we shouldn’t…”
Introducing new talent
You know the people who are blessed immensely but are so scared of falling off the top that they never reach back to help other people achieve their dreams? Yeah, people can be shady and grimy. Luckily, Missy isn’t like that. She’s been instrumental in the careers of several of our faves including Jazmine Sullivan, Tweet, Fantasia, Aaliyah, of course, and a newer artist Sharaya J.
In addition to backing and mentoring other artists and writing/ producing fly music for herself, Missy Elliott has also written and produced for some our favorite artists in the R&B game. That includes Tamia, Beyoncé, 702, Monica and more. Check out the full list here.
There’s nothing like women supporting women. And Missy is an advocate of that, evidenced most notably in her “Ladies Night” and “Lady Marmalade” projects.
Do you remember the days when music videos were something like events? You had to have seen them before you went back to school. And Missy Elliott was at the forefront of those moments. From her very first video, “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” to “Work It” and even “Get Your Freak On” where she spit straight into that man’s mouth and he swallowed it. Who could ever forget that?
In that memorable “Behind The Music” episode I keep referencing, Missy Elliott opened up about some of the most trying and traumatic experiences of her childhood. She shared the story of the sexual abuse she endured as a child, the domestic violence in her home and living in extreme poverty with her mother and father.
While her mother was a bit apprehensive about sharing so much of their personal lives, Missy assured her that by telling their story they would help someone else.
Homegirl let us all know, over and over again, that hip-hop didn’t always have to be so hardcore. There were more than enough times where she let her silly side hang all the way out on a track, during performances and especially in the videos.
**Bonus** That Super Bowl Performance
Clearly, Katy Perry’s name was on the bill as the halftime performer for this year’s Super Bowl Halftime show. But if you ask anyone…ANYONE, Missy Elliott stole the show. After all these years, those songs still go hard as hell. And in addition to getting us all super hype, it reminded us of how much we miss and need Missy in the game, making music of her own. We’re all waiting…impatiently. But in the meantime, Happy Birthday to the innovator, game changer, legend Missy Elliott!