​Throwing it back: A Missy Elliot Playlist

 

 

Just yesterday Missy Misdemeanor Elliot dropped an EP titled Iconology. The personal effort cements her status as an icon after receiving the Michael Jackson Vanguard award and being inducted into the songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

From storylines, costumes, makeup, set-design, visual effects to choreography, this playlist is a reminder of why Missy is a pioneer in how we conceptualize music through videos.

The Rain

Taken off her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, the extraterrestrial visual for the single The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) was an indelible introduction. In it Missy embodies the concept of being “supa dupa fly” through her inflated, trash bag meets space suit, outfit.

Quotable: “Beep beep/ Who got the keys to the jeep? / Vrrrrrrrrm”

She’s a bitch

In what may have been a political act of reclamation, Missy rapped the term “She’s a bitch”, in reference to herself. She gave us the offering with such an unbothered ease and a tone so confident that it subverted its meaning.

Quotable: “She’s A Bitch/ When You Say My Name/ Talk Mo’ Junk But Won’t Look My Way”

Sock It 2 Me (feat. Da Brat)

Then she took us to what looks like a cartoonish take on Mars where she and Lil Kim evade robot aliens before being rescued by Da Brat. Not only did the video’s narrative defy the fairytale norm by having a womxn rescue womxn, but the lyrics scream of sexual agency.

Quotable: “My hormones jumping like a disco” or “All you gotta say is Missy go”

Get Ur Freak On

Set in a post apocalyptic world, the Missy we met in space has returned to Earth with supernatural abilities, like stretching her neck. The plot stays true to Missy being alien, an anomaly in the industry. Instead of fitting in, she encourages outliers like to embrace the things that subject them to labels like “freak”. And could ever forget how Timbaland gave us a hip-hop take on Bhangra music, from India’s Punjab region, with the beat?

Quotable: “Quiiiiiiiet!/ Hush your mouth”

Work It

Not many of us knew what she was saying but we zealously mumbled along.
Quotable: “I put my thang down, flip it and reverse it” and “If you’re a fly gal/ get your nails done/ Get a pedicure/get your hair did”

Pass That Dutch

Yet again, this Missy visual was nothing short of satirical commentary. From a beauty queen being cheered on by a group of Bratz Dolls to the King Kong parody where a giant Missy holds onto the Empire State building. And do you remember Missy and her backup dancers River dancing to the Timbaland beat?

Quotable: “Heavy hitter, rhyme spitter, call me Re-Run”

Lose Control

It wouldn’t be a Missy Elliot playlist without a Fat Man Scoop and Ciara feature.

Quotable: “I’ve got a cute face/ Chubby waist”

Ching A Lin

The era of the dance crew, hip-hop dance movie and dance competition was upon us. One of the standouts was the Japanese crew known for their slow-motion choreography, U-Min, which have a lengthy cameo in Ching A Ling. Ching A Ling was also the first time 3D effects were used in a woman artist’s music video. The only other artist to have that before her was Nas

Quotable: “Thirsty, baby bring it over here”

Where They From (WTF) (featuring Pharrell)

Just when we thought the celestial Missy Elliot figure had bowed out for the more human persona, she came back in a bedazzled space suit, matching lipstick and oversized sunglasses reminiscent of the pair she wears in She’s a Bitch.

Quotable: “Boys on my back, playa did you peep that?/ You got a small stack, playa, you can keep that/ I’m a Big Mac make you wanna eat that”

Throw It Back

It’s been over a decade and Missy has kept the same energy. Whether it’s preteen girls double-dutching using her hair or her making yet another cameo in space, her reach still stands as a visual reference ahead of its time.

Quotable: “I raised all these babies, call me Katherine Jackson (‘Son)”


Bonus: Everything she featured on

Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa studies Digital Democracy, New Media and Political Activism, and Digital Politics.
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