Last November, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott officially announced her return to the studio with “WTF (Where They From),” a bombastic video that is 100% Misdemeanor and her first in 10 years. The 44-year-old writer, producer, and prominent female rapper has been the recipient of 5 Grammys, has sold more than 7.6 million records, and is the only woman in hip-hop to have released 6 platinum albums. She has defied stereotypes throughout her career by staying true to herself, from wearing a garbage bag in “Sock It 2 Me” as a “fuck you” to conventional standards of beauty, to coming out about her experiences with child molestation, and becoming a spokesperson for domestic abuse by sponsoring Break The Cycle. To celebrate the long-awaited comeback of one of hip-hop’s most celebrated ladies, we’ve compiled an historical timeline of Missy’s twelve (arguably) best videos.
1. Raven-Symoné (ft. Missy Elliott) – “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of“
Starting as a local sensation in a girl-group named Sista (originally Fayze), Elliott and her crew (which included Timbaland and Magoo) joined a New York hip-hop collective called Swing Mob in the early 90s. During this period, Elliott got her first big break, writing Raven-Symoné’s 1993 debut single, “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of.” Elliott brushed shoulders with discrimination when a thinner, lighter, black woman was hired to lip-sync Missy’s Jamaican-style toasting in the video.
2. Aaliyah (Writer. Missy Elliott) – “One In A Million”
After some irreconcilable differences, Swing Mob dissolved in 1995 and Elliott moved to NYC to pursue writing and producing. Aiming to avoid the “Martha Wash effect” once again, Elliott made it a prerogative to stay behind the camera. Almost immediately becoming a producer at Atlantic Records, she was assigned to write and produce young hopeful, Aaliyah. One In A Million, Aaliyah’s 1996 second album, went double platinum.
3. Gina Thompson (ft. Missy Elliot) – “The Things You Do (Bad Boy Remix)”
Elliott made an official debut to the front of the lense in 1996, as a featured rapper on Gina Thompson’s “The Things You Do.” The “Bad Boy Remix,” with cameos from Missy and then Bad-Boy group 112 (think P. Diddy and Notorious B.I.G.), reached #12 on the Billboard R&B charts in ‘96.
4. Missy Elliott – “The Rain”
P. Diddy had hoped to sign Missy to Bad Boy Records after her cameo on “The Things You Do,” but instead she pursued a deal with Elektra later in 1996. Elliott and long-time contemporary, Timbaland, worked to release Supa Dupa Fly in 1997. Featuring a star-studded list of guest appearances (Busta Rhymes, Genuwine, Aaliyah, Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Lil Kim, to name a few), the album sold 1.2 millions copies in the U.S. alone, certifying its platinum status. In “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, Missy made a point of wearing a black garbage bag as an opposition to the hip-hop industry’s covetous view of female bodies as a means to sell records.
5. Missy Elliott (Ft. Da Brat) – “Sock It 2 Me”
Missy ensured her place in hip-hop royalty with Supa Dupa Fly, arguably one of the most important releases by a female artist ever. In addition to Missy’s avant-garde rapping style, her surrealist videos turned heads. Directed by Hype Williams and featuring Da Brat and Lil’ Kim, the robot suits in “Sock It 2 Me” were inspired by Sega’s Mega-Man.
6. Missy Elliott – “She’s A Bitch”
Originally titled She’s a Bitch, Elliott decided to keep her sophomore album more positive by renaming it Da Real World. Released in 1999, the lead single charted #30 on Billboard R&B and the album went platinum in 2000. The track explores the stigma of being called a “bitch” and how to twist it as fuel for empowerment.
7. Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink (Ft. Missy Elliott) – “Lady Marmalade”
Y’all remember this one. In 2001, Elliott produced and rapped for a cover of Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade” for the MTV rock opera, Moulin Rouge!. Earning Elliott a Grammy in 2002, the track stayed cemented at #1 on Billboard for five weeks. The song held the longest run in Billboard’s #1 spot for a female rapper….until 2014 when Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” lasted for seven.
8. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On”
Garnering her first Grammy as a solo artist in 2002, “Get Ur Freak On,” begins a relationship with a more openly sexual Missy (see: “Work It” for your sexual climax). The track peaked at #7 on the mainstream Billboard charts in 2001.
9. Missy Elliott – “Work It”
Unabashed of her size during a time when heroin-chic was still a popular trend, Missy presents a female-gaze hip-hop anthem of the female sexual experience. For possibly the first time ever, Missy puts a song into the ethos that discusses sex as a stress-free, hedonistic, for-fun activity, and not as a means to an end or an expression of love. And I quote: “Ain’t no shame, ladies do your thang / Just make sure you ahead of the game.”
10. Missy Elliott (Ft. Ludacris) – “Gossip Folks”
Debuting in 2002, this track off Under Construction hit #8 on Billboard Hot 100. The album, Missy’s fourth in her catalogue, proceeded to go double-platinum. Besides the rad technicolors and imparted wisdom on how to deal with gossip, the track features Ms Jade and Dirty South rapper, Mr. Wiggles aka Ludacris. A-Town down, y’all.
11. Missy Elliott (Ft. Busta Rhymes) – “Pass That Dutch (Remix)”
Released in 2004 from the album This Is Not a Test!, this track also ran as an extended remixed single featuring Busta Rhymes in 2003. Directed by Dave Meyers, the video shows Missy river-dancing on a farm beneath a U.F.O. The track peaked at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100, 32 slots ahead of “I’m Really Hot,” the only other single off of This Is Not a Test!.
12. Missy Elliott (Ft. Ciara & Fatman Scoop) – “Lose Control”
Though the album itself didn’t go platinum (it went gold), this single from Missy’s sixth album, The Cookbook, was a huge success. Written by a host of writers including Ciara (also featured in the video) and produced by Missy, the album charted at #3 on Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy. The last video before Missy disappeared and resurfaced with “WTF” in 2015, this video in particular typifies a period when most of us were forcibly engaged in pep rallies, TRL, and driving hummers for no reason. Thank god that decade’s over….but Missy ain’t, and that is equally a godsend.
Glad to have you back, Missy!
Image via “The Rain”
More from BUST