I want to highlight one of my favorite musicians: Missy Elliot. She is a rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, visionary, and role model. Simply stated, Missy Elliot is Black Girl Magic personified.
In thinking about her career, it is difficult to choose just one song as my favorite. While she was not the first woman rapper, she was the first one that made a direct impact on me. She made me feel seen as a fat, darker-skinned, Black girl. As I grew up, Missy was there: working with all kinds of artists, inventing visuals that had never been seen before, breaking records, and inspiring millions. There are so many songs to choose from, but I have selected five songs that showcase her creative genius.
1) Beep Me 911
This real-life-doll motif BLEW MY MIND. The visuals for this song challenged people’s perception of Missy. At the time, the thought was that bigger bodies could not be sexy. Missy pushed back by showing her brand of sex appeal was welcomed and desired. I witnessed this video while I was maturing, and it helped build my confidence.
2) Sock It 2 Me
Not only is this song a complete bop, but it just lets us know that Missy is a time traveler. She was teaching me about afro-futurism and afro-surrealism before I knew they were subjects I was interested in. Seeing how she coupled bright colors with dope rhymes, monsters, spaceships, and video games allowed my mind to create alternate realities and explore the depths of my own creativity.
3) Into the Hollywood Groove with Madonna
In researching her catalog, I discovered that Missy has over 2000 artist credits to her name! Your fave could never. We all know about her main collaborators — Aaliyah, Timbaland, Ginuwine, Beyoncé, and Ciara. But did you also know, she has either produced, written or appeared on songs with Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, A$AP Ferg, Raven-Symoné, Little Mix, Karen Clark Sheard, MeShell Ndegocello, Diplo, and The Chemical Brothers? Her masterful mind has allowed her to become a genre-bending force to be reckoned with.
4) She’s A B*&%h
Never one to conform to industry or societal standards, Missy made it cool to be you. She did not play into the stereotypes pushed onto Black women in the music business. She unapologetically donned latex, bald caps, and funky fashions. She created sick visuals to accompany a statement-making song. Her talent speaks for itself. Missy’s intentionality empowered me and aspiring artists everywhere.
5) The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
It’s only fitting to end where we began.
Missy burst into my life dressed in what appeared to be a blown-up trash bag spouting rhymes I couldn’t wait to memorize. I was captivated. She commanded the screen. As a child, all I wanted to be was grown — especially in the 90s. Missy provided the blueprint. Hair molded to perfection — not a finger wave out of place. Lips lined and glossed with precision, a fish-eye lens, and hoop earrings. While the aesthetics caught my eye, it was not until later that I realized Missy is a visionary. No one but her could have done this video. Missy created a wave, set trends, and brought all of us along for the ride. I am forever grateful and inspired.