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Missy Elliott (born Melissa Arnette Elliott July 1, 1971 in Portsmouth, Virginia), is a five-time Grammy Award-winning American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. With record sales of 7.6 million domestically she is the only female rapper to have six certified platinum albums by the RIAA, including one double platinum plaque.
Elliott is known for a series of hits including "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)", "Hot Boyz", "Get Ur Freak On", "One Minute Man", "Work It", "Gossip Folks", "Pass That Dutch", "Lose Control" and "Ching-a-Ling." In addition, Elliott has worked extensively as a songwriter and producer for other artists, both alone and with her producer and childhood friend Timbaland. Elliott's songwriting and production credits include work for a number of other female artists, among them Aaliyah, Monica, Destiny's Child, Mýa, Whitney Houston, Trina, Nicole Wray, Fantasia, Ciara, Raven Symone, Keyshia Cole, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Lil' Mo.
In the 1990s Missy Elliott, La Shawn Shellman, Chonita Coleman, and Radiah Scott formed an R&B group called Sista, for which Elliott served as a singer and songwriter. She recruited her neighborhood friend Timothy Mosley as the group's producer and began making demo tracks. In 1991, Sista caught the attention of Jodeci member/producer DeVante Swing by performing Jodeci songs a cappella for him backstage after one of his group's concerts. In short order, Sista moved to New York City, signed to Elektra Records through DeVante's Swing Mob imprint. Elliott took Mosley (whom DeVante re-christened Timbaland) and their friend Melvin "Magoo" Barcliff along with her.
All 20-plus members of the Swing Mob, among them future stars such as Ginuwine, Playa, and Tweet, lived in a single two-story house in New York and were often at work on material both for Jodeci and their own projects. While Elliott wrote and rapped on child rapper Raven-Symoné's debut 1993 single "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of", she also contributed songwriting duties, credited and uncredited, to the final two Jodeci albums: 1993's Diary of a Mad Band and 1995's The Show, The After Party, The Hotel. Timbaland and DeVante produced a Sista LP, 4 All the Sistas Around the World, completed in 1994. Though videos were released for the original and remix versions of the single "Brand New," the album was shelved and never released. One of the group's tracks "It's Alright" featuring Craig Mack did make the Dangerous Minds (Soundtrack) in 1995. But by the end of 1995, Swing Mob had folded and many of its members dispersed; Elliott, Timbaland, Magoo, Ginuwine, and Playa remained together and collaborated on each others' records for the rest of the decade.
After Swing Mob
After leaving Swing Mob, Elliott and Mosley (Timbaland) worked together as a songwriting/production team, crafting tracks for acts including SWV ("Can We?" 1997) and 702 ("Steelo" and its remix), but the most notable of them was Aaliyah. Elliott and Timbaland wrote and produced nine tracks for Aaliyah's second album, One in a Million (1996), among them the hit singles "If Your Girl Only Knew," "One in a Million," "Hot Like Fire," and "4 Page Letter." Elliott contributed background vocals and/or guest raps to nearly all of the tracks on which she and Timbaland worked. One in a Million went double-platinum and made stars out of the production duo.
Elliott and Timbaland continued to work together for other artists, later creating hits for artists such as Total ("What About Us," 1997), Nicole Wray ("Make It Hot," 1998), and Destiny's Child ("Get on the Bus," 1998), as well as one final hit for Aaliyah, "I Care 4 U" before her death in 2001.
Elliott began her career as a featured vocalist rapping on Sean "Puffy" Combs's Bad Boy remixes to Gina Thompson's "The Things That You Do," (which had a video featuring cameo appearances by Notorious B.I.G and Puff Daddy), MC Lyte's 1996 single "Cold Rock a Party" (backup vocals by Gina Thompson), and New Edition's 1996 single "You Don't Have to Worry." Combs had hoped to sign Elliott to his Bad Boy record label. Also that year Elliott appeared on the Men of Vizion's remix of "Do Thangz" which was produced by Rodney Jerkins (coincidentally the producer of the original version of "The Things That You Do").
She instead signed a deal with Elektra Records in 1996 to create her own imprint, The Goldmind Inc., for which she would record as a solo artist. Timbaland was again recruited as her production partner, a role he would hold on most Elliott solo releases. Missy also appeared in LSG's song "All The Time" with Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, Faith Evans, and Coko in 1997 on Levert Sweat Gill classic album. The same year, she rapping in "Keys To My House" with old friends group LeVert.
Supa Dupa Fly and Da Real World
In the center of a busy period making guest appearances and writing for other artists, Elliott's debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, (originally titled "Hit 'em wit da Hee") was released in mid-1997. The year also saw Elliott perform live at The MTV Video Music Awards show on a remix to Lil' Kim's "Not Tonight" with fellow rappers Da Brat and Angie Martinez and TLC-rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
In 1998, Elliott continued her successful career in the background as a producer and writer on Total's single "Trippin'," as well as working with several others in the hip-hop and R&B communities. The same year, Elliott also produced and made a guest appearance on Spice Girl Melanie B's, debut solo single "I Want You Back," which topped the UK Singles Chart.
Although a much darker album than her debut, Elliott's second album was just as successful as the first: selling 1.5 million copies and 3 million copies worldwide. Da Real World (1999) included the singles "All N My Grill," a collaboration with Nicole Wray and Big Boi (from OutKast), a remix to "Hot Boyz" and "She's a Bitch."
Miss E… So Addictive
Missy Elliott next released Miss E… So Addictive in 2001. The album spawned the massive pop and urban hits One Minute Man, featuring Ludacris and Trina, and "Get Ur Freak On", as well as the international club hit "4 My People" and the less commercially-successful single *"Take Away"*. The double music video for "Take Away/4 My People" was released in the fall of 2001, shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the tragic death of Elliott's good friend Aaliyah in August. The "*Take Away*" video contained images of and words about Aaliyah, and the slow ballad acted as a tribute to her memory. The remainder of the video was the more upbeat "4 My People", contained scenes of people dancing happily in front of American flags and Elliott dressed in red, white and blue. Though "Take Away" flopped at radio, "4 My People" went on to become an American and European club hit due to a popular techno Basement Jaxx remix in 2002.
Tweet's appearance on Elliott's "Take Away" as well as her cameo at Elliott's house on MTV Cribs helped to create a buzz about the new R&B singer. Tweet's own debut single, "Oops (Oh My)", was co-written by Elliott and released through Goldmind in February 2002. The single was a top ten hit, thanks partially to Elliott's songwriting and guest rap, and to Timbaland's unusual production on the track. Tweet and Elliott's numerous collaborations and public appearances together during this time also began to fuel media rumors that the two were having a secret lesbian tryst, one of many media rumors about Elliott that she herself would address in her subsequent work.
For her next outing, Elliott and Timbaland focused on an old school sound, utilizing many old school rap and funk samples, such as Run DMC's "Peter Piper" and Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus" (in "Work It" and "Gossip Folks", respectively). Elliott's fourth album, 2002's Under Construction (see 2002 in music), included the aforementioned singles "Work It", Elliott's 2nd biggest hit to date, and the successful duet with Ludacris, "Gossip Folks." In the latter, Elliott let her critics know what she thought of recent media rumors about her, including her rapid weight loss that had taken place during 2002 and her alleged affairs with Timbaland, Tweet, and Trina. As the "Work It" video had done during 2002, "Gossip Folks" became one of the most-played music videos on MTV, MTV2, MTV Jams, and BET in 2003. It received significantly less attention than "Work It" at urban radio, but was embraced by the dance community, as well as the mainstream, due to a Fatboy Slim remix. Although not released as single and with no video, "Pussycat", peaked at #77 on the Hot 100. The album is known as the best selling female rap album ever with 2.2 million copies sold in America and 4.5 million copies sold world wide.
Under Construction also included a track called "Back In The Day", a nostalgic ode to old school hip hop music and fashion that featured guest vocals from Jay-Z and Tweet. A video was shot and an article on MTV.com was posted, but the video was never released.
Early 2003, Elliott produced the "American Dream Remix" (featuring Tweet's additional vocals) of Madonna's single "American Life". In the summer of 2003, Elliott was the featured rapper on Timbaland & Magoo's long-awaited return single, "Cop That Disc"; the song was a modest hit at urban radio.
For the soundtrack to the Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles movie by the same name, Elliott produced "Fighting Temptation" (featuring herself, Beyoncé, Free & MC Lyte) which reached the #1 spot in Japan but failed to chart in the US Hot 100.
This Is Not a Test!
A year after Elliott's most successful album to date was released, Elliott felt pressured by her label to release another album, hoping to capitalize on her recent successs. Elliott's singles, "Pass That Dutch" and "I'm Really Hot", from her fifth album, This Is Not a Test! (released November 2003), both rose the urban charts. However, both were not as successful at pop radio in comparison to many of her previous efforts. Elliott has since stated that "This Is Not A Test! came out extremely too quickly for me. I didn't want it to come out when it did."
Also in 2003, Elliott was featured on Wyclef Jean's "Party To Damascus" and Ghostface Killah's "Tush" singles, the latter of which became a minor 2004 dance hit, and had a pivotal role in the motion picture Honey, starring Jessica Alba. The Gap approached Elliott later in the year to co-star in a commercial with Madonna, which received much media attention GAP Advert. Elliott furthered her relationship with the Material Girl by performing the controversial 2003 MTV Video Music Awards show opening alongside Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
In 2004, Elliott was featured on Ciara's hit single "1, 2 Step", with her verse interpolating Teena Marie 's smash hit, "Square Biz". The two soon became close friends and rumors began to spread of a lesbian relationship between the duo and also between Elliott and America's Next Top Model winner Eva Pigford, which all denied.
Elliott premiered her own reality show on the UPN Network, The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott in mid-2005. Although the series never made impressive ratings, it did maintain a solid audience. The winner, Jessica Betts, has yet to release an album or single, which was the prize of the show.
Following her less than usual sales from her previous album, Elliott wanted to "give people the unexpected" by utilizing producers other than Timbaland and a "more to the center" sound not as far left as her other music. Her sixth solo album, The Cookbook was released in July 2005 and debuted at number two on the U.S. charts. Its first single, "Lose Control", which featured Ciara and Fatman Scoop, became a Top 10 hit in the early summer (peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100), and the other album tracks featured guest appearances from Mike Jones, Fantasia, M.I.A., Slick Rick, Mary J. Blige, and Pharrell Williams. The video for "Lose Control" garnered Elliott six 2005 MTV VMA award nominations, ultimately winning two awards in the categories Best Dance Video and Best Hip-Hop Video in August. After the VMA's, Elliott released "Teary Eyed" which never saw chart action although the video charted on MTV's Total Request Live for a few weeks, and BET's 106 & Park for a few days. Teary Eyed is one of the few tracks that showcase Elliott with her talented ability to also sing well. Elliott is known for her dance hits, and is the only female rapper to have five consecutive platinum studio albums.
In early September, Elliott tore her Achilles' tendon while shooting the music video for her song "We Run This", requiring surgery and a long recovery, thus dampening promotion efforts for The Cookbook. In November 2005, Elliott won Best Female Hip Hop Artist at the 2005 American Music Awards, defeating colleagues Lil' Kim and Trina. Also in November, Elliott's remixed version of Ashlee Simpson's "L.O.V.E." (from her second album, I Am Me) was included on the CD single.
In December 2005, Elliott was nominated for 5 Grammy Awards, including two for "Lose Control" (Best Short Form Video, which she won, and Best Rap Song), one for The Cookbook (Best Rap Album), one for writing Fantasia's "Free Yourself" (Best R&B Song), and one for "1, 2 Step" with Ciara (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration). Elliott was also nominated for Best International Female Artist at the 2006 BRIT Awards.
In early 2006, Elliott's single and video for "We Run This" was released with heavy airplay on VH1, MTV, and BET. It served as the lead single for the soundtrack to the gymnastics-themed film Stick It.
Missy Elliott was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Solo Performance category for "We Run This."
Respect M.E., Elliott's first greatest hits album, was released outside the United States and Canada on September 4, 2006, but only in South Africa, Australia, Europe, Japan, and Brazil. The collection became her second top ten album in the UK and her highest charting album to date, peaking at number seven there. According to BPI it has been certified Gold for sales of over 100,000 units in the UK and 500,000 copies world wide.
The album cover shows Missy Elliott riding a Friesian horse with a dark, cloudy background. The M.E. can be understood as either the word 'me', or could be referring to Missy Elliott. "Respect M.E." is also the name of her clothing line produced by adidas. "Take Away" did not make the album cut, but was replaced with the more successful Basement Jaxx dance remix of "4 My People".
In January 2008, Ching-a-Ling was released as the lead single for the Step Up 2 the Streets soundtrack. "Shake Your Pom Pom," produced by Timbaland, is also on the soundtrack. Both songs may appear on Elliott's forthcoming album.
Missy Elliott produced and appeared on the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Grammy Nominated Keyshia Cole song Let It Go.
Elliott has also recorded a duet with Ukrainian singer Ruslana called "The Girl That Rules." She is also working on new material for Whitney Houston, Monica, Trina, Janet Jackson, Teairra Marí, Olivia, Tweet, Chilli, Jazmine Sullivan, Danity Kane, Amy Winehouse, Ne-Yo, Michelle Williams and Ciara.
VH1 Hip Hop Honors
Missy Elliott was an honoree of the 2007 VH1 Hip Hop Honors. In honor of her career, many artists performed some of her biggest hits. Timbaland and Tweet performed "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," Eve and Keyshia Cole performed "Hot Boyz" and "Work It", Fatman Scoop and Ciara performed "Lose Control," and Nelly Furtado performed "Get Ur Freak On (The Remix)." The show aired October 8, 2007.
Elliott has been charitable throughout her career, especially with causes close to her heart such as domestic violence and teen obesity.
Elliott is also affiliated with the charity Break the Cycle, which focuses on eliminating domestic abuse. In conjunction with her reality show The Road to Stardom, there was a contest for viewers to create a public service ad for the Break the Cycle foundation.
In 2004, Missy Elliott joined forces with MAC Cosmetics to promote their "Viva Glam" campaign. In addition to the ad campaign, Elliott promoted the MAC Viva Glam V lipstick from which 100% of the sale goes to the M.A.C Aids Fund.
She also helps with many other charitable organizations in lower income areas across the country. She is constantly working with the youth from poverty stricken homes and is often imitated by up and coming youngsters such as Margret McGlone.
In mid-June of 2006, Universal Pictures announced they had bought the life story of Elliott and planned to bring it to the big screen. Producers include Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, while the film is being written and directed by Diane Houston. In mid-June of 2007, Elliott said she was still working on the script with Diane Houston in order "to come up with the right stuff cause I don’t want it to be watered down. I want it to be raw and uncut the way my life was" Initially, it seemed Timbaland wouldn't be a part of the movie. When Missy asked him he refused, citing he felt it dramatizes his character; "the movie is about her life, her story, that goes deeper than putting me into the movie". However, Timbaland has since stated that he would reconsider if she could get others, including Ginuwine and Magoo, to sign on.
It is unclear whether or not Elliott will be portraying herself in the movie. With some media outlets publishing her as the star of the planned biopic, no official word has been released.
- 1997: Supa Dupa Fly
- 1999: Da Real World
- 2001: Miss E… So Addictive
- 2002: Under Construction
- 2003: This Is Not a Test!
- 2005: The Cookbook
- 2008: Missy Elliott's seventh studio album
- 2006: Respect M.E.
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