It’s impossible not to put Missy Elliott and “musical genius” in the same sentence. The epitome of an artiste (singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, rapper, dancer and director), Missy has spent more than 20 years perfecting her craft, breaking new ground, blazing trails, effortlessly keeping music grounded in its rhythmic roots while pushing it as close to the cutting edge as possible and making sure it stays there. And not just for herself; while her personal résumé and professional accolades would make any entertainer envious, her professional résumé is just as extensive as she’s assisted countless artists with elevating their style and sound to the next level even if just for a song.
With the 20-year anniversary of her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, upon us, we couldn’t help but look back and reflect on the impact she just by herself in the last two decades but the simultaneous influence she sustained in R&B as well. Dig in with us!
“The Things That You Do (Bad Boy Remix)” – Gina Thompson feat. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott
#12 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Although she had been in a girl group previously and consistent on her songwriting tip, Gina Thompson’s top-20 R&B hit not only gave us a summer jam for 1996 is what introduced us to Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott and gave us our first preview of what her animated rap persona had in store.
“Steelo” – 702
#12 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales & Tracks
#32 Hot 100
Although she ended up producing a much bigger hit for them, many may not know Missy was the songwriter behind 702’s debut hit which had enough attitude to help the trio make a memorable first impression both among fans and on the charts.
One in a Million – Aaliyah
#2 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
#18 Billboard 200
Missy Hits: “If Your Girl Only Knew” (#1 R&B; #11 Hot 100); “One In a Million” (#1 R&B Airplay; #25 Hot 100 Airplay); “4 Page Letter” (#12 R&B Airplay); “Hot Like Fire” (#31 R&B Airplay)
Sales: 3.7 million
Although they weren’t the sole contributors, Missy’s songwriting and arrangements combined with Timbaland’s cutting-edge production are what created the dynamic that was the foundation of Aaliyah’s now-classic sophomore album. Melding her soft and sweet vocals with such topical lyricism wrapped around rather rugged, off-kilter production definitely helped to set a new benchmark in R&B that very few after have been able to reach.
“One in a Million” – Aaliyah
#1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay
#2 Hot 100 Airplay
Every musical genre has a set of “standards” that come to be regarded as classics on their own and iconic templates of what a great record should be. For R&B, “One in a Million” has definitely become such. The kinetic production still sounds fresh over 20 years later and Missy’s tenderly simple lyric can still manage to tug at the most thugged-out heartstrings.
Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
#1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
#3 Billboard 200
Missy Hits: “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” (#4 Hip-Hop); “Sock It 2 Me” (#3 Hip-Hop; #12 Hot 100); “Beep Me 911” (#13 Hip-Hop Airplay)
Sales: 1.2 million
No one might’ve imagined that an album recorded in just two weeks time would end up being such a classic but Missy’s debut album became just that. Not only was it the highest debut album for a female rap artist upon its release (#3 with 129,000 first-week sales), it was a masterclass in individualism and creativity. The music alone displayed Missy’s versatile prowess as both a rapper and singer while the music videos created to support the music ushered in a new and innovative era that dared artists across all genres to up their visual ante.
“Beep Me 911” – Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott feat. 702 & Magoo
#13 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay
The third single released from Supa Dupa Fly, Missy putting her silky R&B croon at the forefront was just as captivating as the black Barbie dollhouse concept of the music video.
“Can We” – SWV feat. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott
#31 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Missy helped SWV with their grown & sexy glow-up by writing this kinky Booty Call soundtrack cut that wound up becoming their centerpiece of third album.
“Babydoll” – Mariah Carey
The sickness of Missy’s pen reached an undeniable level when the notoriously self-contained songwriter that is Mariah Carey called on Missy to co-write one of the tracks on her evolutionary Butterfly album.
“All the Times” – LSG feat. Faith Evans, Coko & Missy Elliott
Less than six months after she stormed the hip-hop world with her debut, Missy proved that she could hold similar ground with R&B heavyweights on this smoldering duet from supergroup LSG’s self-titled debut album. Faith and Coko brought the power as expected while Missy’s velvety vocals provided the perfect balance.
“Make It Hot” – Nicole feat. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott & Mocha
#2 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
#5 Hot 100
The first official nugget to be excavated from Missy’s Gold Mind, 17 year old Nicole Wray’s soulful voice had a coolness about it that Missy and Timbaland used to their advantage when creating a debut single that was just left enough of center to make her stand out among the new school of 1998.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Soundtrack)
#15 R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
Missy Hits: “I Want You Back” by Melanie B (#1 UK Singles); “Get on the Bus” by Destiny’s Child (#15 UK Singles); “No Fool, No More” by En Vogue (#37 R&B)
Putting her curation skills to the test, Gold Mind was given the privilege of creating a late ’90s soundtrack to accompany the biopic of ’50s teen star (and polygamist) Frankie Lymon. While the soundtrack sounds very 1998 almost 20 years later, there’s still a cohesive thread in the energy that fuels it and it’s a clean demonstration of Missy’s many creative moods.
“Five Minutes” – Lil’ Mo feat. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott
Yes, we have Missy to thank for introducing the godmother of R&B, Lil’ Mo, to the world! And while the song itself may not have made the biggest splash, there’s no denying that they just don’t make music videos the way they used to.
“Trippin'” – Total feat. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott
#3 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
#7 Hot 100
The bad girls of Bad Boy were feisty on their own but Missy helped add some sophistication to their sexiness on the lead single from their sophomore album, Kima, Keisha & Pam.
“Oh Yes” – Whitney Houston
After assisting one diva with a co-write, it was only a matter of time before another diva came calling and Missy answered with two spades on Whitney Houston’s ’98 studio album, My Love Is Your Love. While “In My Business” provided the sass, “Oh Yes” provided the sensuality and a necessary balance on the album.
“Gotta Leave” – 702
#58 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
While it’s common knowledge that Missy masterminded the biggest hit of 702’s career, a top-5 R&B and Pop smash permanently embedded in 90s pop culture, it grossly overshadowed one of their greatest records period which was also another Missy Elliott creation. “Gotta Leave” was the third single from their Gold-certified, self-titled sophomore album and was a stinging kiss-off record that every girl group needs in their repertoire.
“Bye Bye” – Mýa feat. Missy Elliott
Mýa was fortunate enough to have Missy add some of her quick witted flavor to this deep cut from her debut album! Who else but Missy could make “tell me what the issue / all up in her booty like tissue” such a classic line?
“Ya Di Ya” – Gina Thompson feat. Missy Elliott
Missy got to return the favor to Gina by serving as executive producer of her sophomore album, If Only You Knew. True, the album was shelved but at least Missy got to help Gina solidify everything about 1998 R&B as a moment in time with the album’s sole single and video.
Da Real World (1999)
#10 Top 200
Missy Hits: “She’s a Bitch” (#30 Hip-Hop); “All ‘n’ My Grill” (#16 R&B); “Hot Boyz (Remix)” (#1 Hot Rap Songs; #5 Hot 100)
Sales: 1.0 million
Missy wasted no time delivering her second album and she dodged the dreaded “sophomore slump” like an Olympian! Diving deeper into her creative world revealed darker, sexier and edgier shades to her artistry that contributed to flexible atmosphere where her hip-hop and R&B sensibilities could coexist and thrive. This stylistic shift established her as a musical force to be reckoned with.
“Hot Boyz (Remix)” – Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott feat. Nas, Eve, Q-Tip & Lil’ Mo
#1 Hot Rap Songs (18 weeks; the current record holder)
#5 Hot 100
Leave it to Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott to drop a remix as the third single from her album and have that record where she, the lead artist, is the singer on the track set a new record by being #1 for 18 weeks on the Hot Rap Singles chart that remains unbroken 18 years later.
“Take That” – Torrey Carter feat. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott
#14 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks
After striking Gold with Nicole, Missy tried her hand at breaking a male artist with Torrey Carter. Although his debut album, The Life I Live, ended up being shelved, the plucky kiss-off jam that was “Take That” was one of those early 2000s diamonds in the rough you probably forgot you loved.
“Confessions” – Destiny’s Child feat. Missy Elliott
After gracing the Fools soundtrack the year prior, Missy Elliott returned the favor and contributed a highlight to Destiny’s Child sophomore album that was not only clever in its flipping the infidelity narrative but also a refreshing nod to the art of R&B storytelling.
“Heartbreaker (Remix)” – Mariah Carey feat. Da Brat & Missy Elliott
#1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Missy and Da Brat brought the street to Mariah’s sweet on the Desert Storm remix of her #1 hit “Heartbreaker”. Although she may not have produced this one herself, Missy’s charisma on the mic added more than enough flavor to make this remix a classic.
“Long Distance Love” – Tamia
Although Missy did produce the top-25 R&B hit that led off Tamia’s sophomore album A Nu Day, it was her slinky ode to “long distance love” that was the true gem. Only Missy could insert Bell Atlantic and Sprint into the context of an R&B song and have it make perfect sense.
“No Disrespect” – Tamar Braxton
Remember when Tamar originally tried launching her solo career in 2000? Well, of course, Missy had one of the highlights on that album, too. “No Disrespect” was a classic kiss-off jam that was signature Misdemeanor from top to bottom.
“Lady Marmalade” – Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa & P!nk
#1 Hot 100 (5 weeks)
2002 Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals
How could Missy not be involved with one of the most iconic remakes of all time? With four incredibly strong female personas involved, it only made sense to have one of the strongest producers, who just happened to be a woman, at the helm!
“I Care 4 U” – Aaliyah
#3 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
#16 Hot 100
Sounding like one of those classic soul ballads lost as a b-side in the ’70s, minds were blown when it was discovered that Missy wrote and Timbaland produced “I Care 4 U” for Aaliyah’s second album in 1996. It was left on the cutting-room floor until the release of her innovative self-titled album in 2001, a project that cut a whole new edge in R&B music, and this track (along with the rest of the album) still sounds remarkably fresh 16 years later.
Miss E…So Addictive (2001)
#1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums
#2 Billboard 200
Missy Hits: “Get Ur Freak On” (#3 Hip-Hop; #7 Hot 100; #7 Rap Songs); “One Minute Man” (#8 R&B; #15 Hot 100); “Take Away” (#13 R&B)
Sales: 1.7 million
Accolades: 2002 Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance (“Get Ur Freak On”); 2003 Grammy for Best Female Rap Solo Performance (“Scream a.k.a. Itchin'”)
This was the album where Missy sounded completely secure in her multiple talents and played to all of her strengths as a rapper, singer, songwriter and producer at maximum capacity. Every track seemed to drive down a completely different creative lane without ever seeming confused and proved that Missy could have it all and do it all with precision and grace.
“Take Away” – Missy Elliott feat. Ginuwine
#13 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Tracks
Aaliyah’s death was an incredible loss for the music industry but an even more personal and devastating loss for her family and friends, which made Missy’s tender ballad, “Take Away”, even more heartfelt when it was released in tribute to her just a few months after the tragedy. Any doubt about Missy’s R&B skills were thrown out with this one.
“Son of a Gun (Remix)” – Janet Jackson feat. Missy Elliott
#26 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
#28 Hot 100
As incredible as her writing and producing skills are, some of Missy’s best moments in R&B are when she just straight rips the track! The original “Son of a Gun” had plenty of bite but throwing Missy’s jabs in the mix created one hell of an anthem for strong women done wrong.
“Bootylicious (Rockwilder Remix)” – Destiny’s Child feat. Missy Elliott
#2 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Missy swagged out yet another remix by adding some street edge to the sweetness of Destiny’s Child sound on this Rockwilder. Back when remixes actually sounded like effort had been put into them.
“Never Been” – Mary J. Blige
Although taking old soul records and turning them into fresh new beats had become the norm in hip-hop, Missy the producer helped to pioneer that trend in R&B in the 2000s. Her flipping an old McFadden & Whitehead record for “Never Been” gave Mary one of the best deep cuts in her career.
“Only Call on Jesus” – Karen Clark-Sheard
Yes, Missy Elliott has blessed the Gospel world with her musical presence as well, producing this inspiring testimony that opened Karen’s 2002 2nd Chance album.
“Oops (Oh My)” – Tweet feat. Missy Elliott
#1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
#7 Hot 100
If nothing else, we have to thank Missy for giving us the gift of Tweet! Her angelic vocals have been soothing our soul ever since the release of Southern Hummingbird in 2002 and her ode to self-love, “Oops (Oh My)” is still one of the most unique and memorable R&B records of the new millennium.
“Pocketbook (Remix)” – Meshell Ndegeocello feat. Redman & Tweet
Versatility has always been one of Missy’s strengths and this remix was proof of this as she melded her contemporary hip-hop and R&B flavors with Meshell’s natural funk style and stream-of-consciousness lyricism. While some might have viewed this as a moment of selling out, true music lovers saw this as a beautiful meeting of two musical masterminds.
“Burnin’ Up (Remix)” – Faith Evans feat. Missy Elliott & Freeway
#19 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Naturally, the First Lady of R&B linking up with the First Lady of Hip-Hop (yeah, we said it) would lead to one scorching collaboration that still can still set the roof on fire today!
“Honk Your Horn” – Dani Stevenson feat. Missy Elliott
Honk your horn if you remember this 2002 jam Missy hooked up for R&B singer Dani Stevenson (best known as the female voice on “Hot in Herre”)!
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