Missy Elliott Honored By Janet Jackson. She Opens Up About Her Serious Illness (Video)
Thursday night (January 25), the ninth annual Essence Black Women In Music event took place. As the event’s title states, the yearly ceremony celebrates Black women in music and spotlights a specific female artist. Previous years saw honorees such as Erykah Badu, Sylvia Rhone, Golden Globe winner and now 2018 Oscar-nominee Mary J. Blige, Kelly Rowland and Jill Scott. But Thursday night, Essence honored one of Hip-Hop’s most nimble MCs, boldest fashion icons and electrifying entertainers: Missy Elliott.
Waves of celebrities and peers were in attendance at New York’s Highline Ballroom, showing support and helping to honor the legendary fashion icon and rapper, including Fabolous, Slick Rick, Remy Ma, and Daniel Cesar.
Kicking off the night was Leikeli47, who delivered a tribute to the rapper/singer/producer with a performance of “Hot Boyz,” all while sporting yellow overalls. Leikeli also managed to nab a mini-Missy Elliott for her performance, who wore a pink garbage bag suit inspired by the outfit Elliott wore in her legendary video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).”
After Leikeli came Rapsody, who is also seeing her fair share of recognition this year, with Grammy nominations for the “Best Rap Song” category with “Sassy,” and her soulful second studio album, Laila’s Wisdom for “Best Rap Album.”
But most notably, longtime friend Janet Jackson showed up to surprise Missy Elliott and deliver a speech that brought the rapper to tears.
“Some rhyme, some rap, some act, some choreograph; some write hit songs, some create whole new sounds; Some women are able to make her mark in some of these fields. But there’s only one woman who has made her mark in all of these fields,” Jackson said. “And not only have you made your mark, but she’s done so with boldness and courage.” According to some in attendance, Missy cried in response to the affirmations.
“I was sick and I couldn’t even lift a pen,” Missy told the audience during her acceptance speech, referring to her diagnosis of Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disease. “My nervous system had broken all the way down. I didn’t come up in here in a wheelchair. Nobody helped me get up here. I’m walking…by the grace of God.” According to ABC News, Elliott confirmed the diagnosis to media and fans in 2011, but has been very quiet publicly about her health. She had been feeling effects since 2008. “I was on medication for a short while but have been off it for quite some time now,” she said then in a press release, “I manage the condition through diet and exercise.”
Missy Elliott has been making music since the late 1980s, first in an all-female R&B group called Fayze (later renamed “Sista”), and the massive Swing Mob, an R&B/Hip-Hop collective that included Timbaland, Magoo, Tweet, Playa and Ginuwine, founded by Jodeci member DeVante Swing.
It wasn’t until after Swing Mob folded that Missy Elliott really got her time to shine. She began working with Timbaland as a songwriting/production team, creating songs for SWV, 702 and Aaliyah, before eventually producing the majority of 1996’s One In A Million, Aaliyah’s second studio album. In 1997, Missy Elliott released her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, via The Goldmind and Elektra Records.
The album debuted at #3 on the Top 200, which, at the time, was the highest-charting debut for a female rapper. The album’s lead single, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” peaked at #4 on Billboard‘s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and “Sock It 2 Me,” the LP’s second single, peaked at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Both singles featured music videos directed by Hype Williams, with “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) notably introducing Missy Elliott’s inflated trash-bag wardrobe.
Elliott would then go on to release an onslaught of other hit records and albums. “Hot Boyz” released in 1999, with a remix that featured Nas, Eve and Q-Tip. The remix broke the record for most weeks at #1 on the US R&B chart and spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart in the year 2000. The song was featured on Da Real World, Elliott’s second album that saw the rapper change into a raunchier persona, who often called herself a bitch remodeled the word to mean a “strong woman in power.”
“One Minute Man,” featuring Ludacris and Trina, and “Get Ur Freak On,” helped put the rapper’s third record Miss E… So Addictive on the map. The latter single gave Missy Elliott her first Grammy award in 2002. In 2003, she’d win another Grammy for her song “Scream a.k.a. Itchin’,” and another in 2004 for her single “Work It.”
The MC/producer was on a tear through the ’00s, creating monster hit singles, smashing record sales and generating some of the greatest charisma and energy seen in R&B, Hip-Hop and all of entertainment. In 2015, she released her first single since 2008, “WTF (Where They From)” with Pharrell Williams, showing she still had pop-making power, and hinting at an upcoming seventh studio album.
Ambrosia For Heads would like to salute Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott for her 2018 Essence Black Women in Music award. Even after nearly three decades, Elliott still remains an essential voice in Hip-Hop.