Now that it seems that we’re finally about to get some new music from Missy Elliot, the Hip Hop legend sat down with Billboard to cover their November 28 issue. In it she talks about the pressure she feels to come out with something hot and fresh, her privacy both in and out of the studio, her health struggles and her thoughts on Nicki Minaj and music today.
Check out the highlights below.
On taking her time to release new music
“I have to be very careful,” she says. “It’s different now. People are quick to be like, ‘You’re irrelevant, you’re a flop, you’re washed up.’
The task became particularly challenging considering Elliot is only working with a very small circle of people for this project.
[Pharrell and Timbaland are] “the only two producers that understand me.”
Truth be told, it’s not that the album hasn’t been held off because she’s been uninspired.
“If I wanted to do ‘The Missing Files of Missy Eliliot,’ I have probably six albums just sitting there.”
Missy consciously made a decision to take a break. She just didn’t realize it would be this long.
“People hadn’t realized that I haven’t just been an artist, I’ve been a writer and a producer for other artists. When you’re writing that much, your brain is like a computer. You have refresh it.”
Missy also believes it was her workload didn’t do much to help her Graves disease.
“It causes hair loss, your eyes bulge,” she says. “My blood pressure was always up from just overworking.”
Her protege, Sharaya, spoke about the emotional toll it took on Missy as well.
“It started to change her way of life,” she says. “There were physical changes, extreme headaches, extreme weight loss. What that does to a person, being a public figure and knowing people are looking, judging? That’s a tough thing.”
On Nicki Minaj and the need for more female MCs.
When asked about Nicki Minaj, who is clearly influenced by Elliott, she mock-innocently replies, “Oh, she is?” (Speaking to her influence generally, she adds, “Unfortunately, breaking news, there is only one Missy.”) Still, she would love to see more woman MCs on the charts — when she was coming up, that was much more common. “It was me, [Lil’] Kim, Lauryn [Hill], Eve, Foxy [Brown], Trina,” she says. “There’s room for so many. It’s important.”
On being shy and maintaining her privacy
“I was always feisty, always that kid that would be on the porch with a hairbrush singing or rapping,” she says. “I got more shy as I got older and realized people could be laughing at me, or judging me.”
And though she and Timbaland are friends and have been creative partners for years, she’s shy around him too.
“I never record in front of anybody,” she says. “[Even] Tim has never seen me record a day in his life.” Early on she worked with an engineer, but for many years now she has recorded her parts alone — with two exceptions. “It’s just me and my little Yorkies, Poncho and Hoodie.”
The habit of being alone comes from Missy’s childhood where she would use her room as an escape from her often turbulent life. Not only had she repeatedly been sexually abused by her cousin, she also watched her mother being physically abused by her father, at one point pulling a gun on her.
“My room would become a whole other world once I shut that door,” she says. “That’s why I believe my videos are so important to me. It was Alice in Wonderland: my bed, my closet — it would all turn into something else. And I would write and sing and block out whatever was going on.”
Pieces of that introverted child still remain. Surprisingly enough, while we all remember her absolutely killing her Super Bowl performance with Katy Perry, Missy says that she had a panic attack before it actually happened.
“Like, IVs in my arm, everything,” she says. “Nobody knew.” The day of the show, she remembers being just offstage and hearing the opening riff of “Get Ur Freak On.” “I said, ‘If I can get over this step, then I know all my dance steps will be on point,’ ” she recalls. “I know it was nothing but the grace of God that lifted me up and took me through that performance.”
We’re so glad He did!
You can read Missy’s full interview with Billboard here.