Whitney, Mariah and Janet all asked to work with her. Michael Jackson apparently approached her for tips on rapping. Björk, Deborah Harry, Janelle Monáe and Solange Knowles have all talked of her influence.
A new generation of stars like SZA, Tyler the Creator, Little Simz, FKA Twigs, Azealia Banks and our own Tkay Maidza would not be where they are today if it weren’t for her game changing tracks.
Damon Albarn named his daughter after her.
Thom Yorke simply had this to say on BBC 6 in 2003: “Missy's so amazing, she makes me want to spit.”
Missy Elliott’s influence and creative impact are widely acknowledged. While her debut, 1997’s Supa Dupa Fly, broke important ground for women and for hip hop, it was with 2002’s Under Construction that she showed what she was really made of.
Her fourth full length was made under incredibly challenging circumstances.
She opens the album with a spoken tribute to her dear friend Aaliyah and how her death in the year prior prompted her re-evaluation on life.
On album closer ‘Can You Hear Me?’ she remembers other friends like Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, and icons like Biggie Smalls and Tupac, massive talents lost to pointless beefs that spun out of control.
Missy Elliott’s way of dealing with it all? Get back to basics and re-focus on hip hop’s roots.
“What's different about this album is, it's old school, it's like how music used to be,” Missy explained to ET in 2002.
“It's going to educate the younger kids who might not know how far back hip hop goes – because for the younger generation, they kind of think hip hop starts at Jay Z, Nas, Missy Elliott, whoever – but it goes farther back than that.”
With her trusty collaborator and friend Timbaland, the old school flavours were solidly represented by samples from the likes of Run DMC, Rock Master Scott & The Dynamic Three and Frankie Smith.
The strongest statement of the love of hip hop culture’s roots is heard midway through in her collaboration with Jay-Z on ‘Back In The Day.’ She sets a scene of a more innocent time when she sings: ‘Remember when we used to battle? On the block before the lights came on, Mama said we would be straight A kids, If we did out homework like we knew those songs.’
On ‘Gossip Folks’, she addresses her critics, gossipers and haters with the sweetest form of revenge, an unassailable smackdown of a party jam.
She shows that expression of female desire and the pursuit of pleasure could be just as strong and unapologetically full bodied as the horniest of her macho contemporaries on songs like ‘Pussycat’, ‘Bring The Pain’ and the bad girl ‘badonk-a-donk-donk’ of the album’s best known song ‘Work It.’
People have sought to take gender out of their assessments of Missy Elliott’s impact as an artist, but the truth is, its an important acknowledgement of all the barriers she’s had to overcome to have her music heard.
Myf Warhurst had this to share on the Missy Elliott J Files.
“She’s credited with altering the music and production palate of hip hop and she also redefined it from a female perspective,” she wrote. “Missy wasn’t someone’s girlfriend, she wasn’t a gangster bitch and she certainly wasn’t a white middle-aged company’s guy idea of what would work in the music industry. She didn’t fit the mould.”
And frankly, she didn’t care, because she had the talent to outclass them all.
With a new documentary about her life and career in the works, we’re eagerly anticipating further insights into the creative powerhouse that is Missy Elliott.
But she doesn’t need a bunch of big name friends, fans and collaborators to speak to her impact and role in hip hop’s continued development. She’s already stated that in her own clear terms.
“What made my rise in hip hop so unique would be the fact that, before Missy, there would be no comparison to what Missy was doing,” she told VH1.
“This is not even a conceited thing. You can’t say ‘Missy reminded me of someone else’, there was no Missy comparison before.”
You don’t need to give that much consideration before accepting that it’s plainly true.