Songwriter, groundbreaking producer, label executive, and video trendsetter, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott was crucial to crafting the Virginia Beach sound that took over the airwaves in the late 1990s and 2000s. She established herself as an in-demand songwriter and producer and founded her own record label, all before breaking out as a Platinum-selling solo star. Elliott forged new paths for women in the music industry and society at large through her behind-the-scenes mastery and unapologetic ownership of her body, her sexual desires, and her Blackness in her music.
Missy Elliott’s debut album Supa Dupa Fly (1997) established her sound: futuristic production rife with jarring distortions under her inimitable rap style. She spit out onomatopoetic nonsense, sing-song, and jagged syncopations in a signature urban Southern drawl. On this and subsequent albums like Miss E...So Addictive! (2001) and her self-produced The Cookbook (2005), Elliott took the weird and made it not only accessible, but the most sought-after sound in hip-hop and R&B. Her music video aesthetic proved as deliciously off-kilter as her music with body-morphing visual effects. Elliott sings with a detached head (“One-Minute Man”), sports a retractable head (“Get Ur Freak On”), and exaggerates and celebrates her size with the help of a fisheye lens and a patent-leather inflatable suit (“The Rain”).
A true pathbreaker in a male-dominated genre, Missy Elliott was the first woman rapper (and third hip-hop artist) inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and to earn the MTV Video Vanguard Award. Among her other accolades are four Grammys, two honorary doctorates, and the Woman’s Entrepreneurship Day Music Pioneer Award given by the United Nations. She also holds the record for the most Platinum albums by a woman rapper at six. Elliott has produced and/or written songs for a veritable who’s-who of stars, from Aaliyah and Beyoncé to Eminem and Lizzo.
“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” Supa Dupa Fly (1997) • “She’s a Bitch,” Da Real World (1999) • “Hot Boyz” (Remix with Nas, Eve, & Q-Tip) (1999) • “Get Ur Freak On,” “One Minute Man” (with Ludacris & Trina), Miss E… So Addictive (2001) • “Work It” Under Construction (2002) • “Bomb Intro/Pass That Dutch,” This Is Not a Test! (2003) • “Lose Control” (with Ciara & Fan Man Scoop), The Cookbook (2005) • “WTF (Where They From)” (with Pharrell Williams) (2015)
Nominee: Missy Elliott
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