Missy Elliott

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the visual and aural aesthetic of Missy Elliot pushed dance-oriented hip-hop in a radical new direction. Elliot was born in Virginia in 1971; her family was active in local church choirs and she developed a singing talent early. In the early 1980s, Elliot formed the R & B group Fayze, recorded demos, and was signed to the Swing Mob imprint of Elektra Records in 1991 after the group had changed its name to Sista. The members of the group relocated to New York, where they lived in a house with other Swing Mob artists and soon became featured and involved in the production of myriad tracks and albums. During this period, Sista released one album, 1994’s 4 All the Sistas Around da World, and Elliot became associated with Mary J. Blige. Swing Mob folded in 1995 and Elliot began a songwriting relationship with Timbaland, which resulted in songs for artists including Aaliyah. The pair remixed and produced various artists until Elliot’s debut, Supa Dupa Fly, released in 1997, broke her as a solo artist. With music videos directed by Hype Williams, Elliot developed an Afro-futurist aesthetic that melded well into her dance-oriented hip-hop sound. The success of her debut was matched by 1999’s Da Real World and repeated through 2005’s The Cookbook. Singles such as “One Minute Man,” “Gossip Folks,” “Pass That Dutch,” and “Work It” continually occupied spots on various Billboard charts and continued Elliot’s explorations of the potential of music videos. After her greatest hits compilation, Respect M.E., released in 2006, Elliot focused on production work. She produced a number of Grammy-nominated songs and artists through the 2010s, announced a potential follow-up to The Cookbook, and engaged in philanthropic work for her hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia. In 2017, a petition to replace a confederate monument in Portsmouth with one of Missy Elliot circulated and attracted national coverage.