Missy Elliott is one of hip hop’s most cherished female MCs. Rising to prominence by the side of Timbaland in the mid-1990s, the rapper (real name Melissa Elliott) is loved for her funny lyrics, provocative raps and outlandish music videos that leave her listeners mindblown. Known as one of hip hop’s first mainstream female MCs, Missy is definitely one of the greats.
Elliot grew up in the Portsmouth area of Virginia as an only child born to her mother, Patricia Elliott, a power-company dispatcher, and her father, Ronnie, a former U.S. Marine. Elliott and her mother lived in the Hodges Ferry neighbourhood of Portsmouth, a poverty-ridden area of the small town. Portsmouth is a suburb of the larger Virginia city Norfolk, home to super-producer Timbaland and only an hour away from Virginia Beach, home to hip hop duo The Neptunes. So Elliott grew up surrounded by a lot of local talent.
After becoming part of the local crew Swing Mob, the rapper rose to fame during the mid-’90s. However, her career would not begin properly until her departure from Swing Mob with Timbaland. Together, the two continued to make music working behind the scenes writing and producing for R’n’B acts, such as Aaliyah, SWV and Total. In 1997, Elliott released her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, and her career skyrocketed.
Elliott’s first album would spawn her first top 20 hit, ‘Sock It 2 Me’. The album landed at number three on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest-charting debut LP for a female rapper. Continuing to work alongside her good friend Timbaland, Elliot would release her second record, Da Real World, in 1999, and by 2000, the album was quickly certified platinum by the RIAA.
Missy Elliot would be a permanent figure in the mainstream throughout the noughties, and she has been recognised as a boundary breaker. Elliott later became the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2019. However, one of Elliott’s songs, produced by Timbaland, would surpass her other material, and that’s her 2002 anthem, ‘Work It’.
Listen to the acapella for Missy Elliott’s ‘Work It’ in the video below.