Missy Elliott Becomes The First Female MC To Enter The Songwriters Hall Of Fame
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott has become the first female Hip-Hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. While JAY-Z became the first artist in Rap to join the prestigious circle two years ago, Missy follows a 2018 where Jermaine Dupri was admitted. Both appeared in New York City for their respective induction ceremonies, with Jay receiving a special video message from friend and former President Barack Obama. Notably, Missy has worked with both Jay and JD during her two-plus-year career.
Missy’s career includes writing, production, and development for a plethora of Hip-Hop and R&B acts dating back more than 25 years. Elliott has six solo albums, all certified gold or better. She worked extensively on albums by Aaliyah, 702, Monica, and Tweet, among others. She is a five-time Grammy Award-winner (out of 22 nominations), including “Best Rap Solo Performance” for 2002’s “Get Ur Freak On.”
The 47-year-old Elliott’s journey of tenacity and perseverance began in Portsmouth, Virginia. The rapper, producer, and singer had a difficult childhood, involving accounts of physical abuse from her father and reports of molestation from a cousin when she was eight. The family also lived in Jacksonville, North Carolina for a period, when Elliott’s father, a shipyard welder, moved there for work.
Music would become a driving force in Elliott’s life by her teens. She co-formed R&B group Fayze. Timbaland, who was from the same area, produced the group. In 1991, Jodeci member Devante Sway heard some of the group’s material and signed them to his Swing Mob/Elektra Records imprint. In 1993, a backed Sista (a re-brand under Devante’s suggestion) released “Brand New.”
Living together in New York City, Swing Mob became a unit, also including Tim’, Magoo, and later, Ginuine, Tweet, and Playa. In the early ’90s, Elliott began offering her writing to others, including Cosby Show actress Raven Symone (see: “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of”), as well as extensive work with Jodeci on the group’s second and third albums. In late 1994, Swing Mob released Sista’s 4 All The Sistas Around Da World. It contained Timbaland and Devante production (as well as Mr. Dalvin), with appearances by Mary J. Blige and K-Ci. After the group’s lone LP.
As Swing Mob disbanded from the label, Missy would continue production, writing, and development. She and Tim’ partnered and worked acts. None would be bigger than Aaliyah, whose One In A Million album featured extensive production, songwriting, and some raps from Missy. The 1996 double-platinum effort gave way for Elliott’s solo career. One year later, back on EastWest/Elektra, she would release Supa Dupa Fly. At a time when many female Rap artists led with sexual imagery and song themes, Elliott’s approach focused on inventive deliveries, universal subject matters, and a universe of jaw-dropping music videos.
The album debuted at #3, with more than 125,000 units, a first for a female solo MC at that time. Elliott joined JAY-Z on tour and persisted with a series of feature spots on albums.
Although the 1990s introduced Elliott to the masses, she reached her greatest strides between 2000 and 2005. 2001’s Miss E…So Addictive, 2002’s Under Construction, and 2005’s The Cookbook were each Top 3 on the charts. Under Construction contained two Top 10 singles, “Gossip Folks” with Ludacris and “Work It.” At a time when tough-talking Rap music was in vogue, Missy kept the party moving, and connected the genre to its origins, through sampling homages, fashion, and dance.
On her most recent album, 2005’s The Cookbook, Elliott again flashed Rap music back to an oft-overlooked part of its origins. “Lose Control” paid respects to Cybotron and Hot Streak, while reinvigorating club DJ records of the early 1990s, thanks to Fatman Scoop. It became Elliott’s first multi-platinum single.
Outside of her own catalog, Missy has appeared on hits ranging from MC Lyte and Lil’ Kim records to pupils including Ciara and her Gold Mind Records artist, Tweet.
In the last 14 years, Elliott has remained comparatively quiet. She has released a handful of promotional singles, always hinting at a seventh album. 2015’s “WTF (Where They From)” with Pharrell and 2017’s “I’m Better,” featuring Lamb, each made the charts. So did Missy’s two Step Up 2: The Streets songs more than a decade ago.
One year ago to the month, while receiving an award presented by Janet Jackson, Elliott told the public about her private battle with autoimmune illness Graves’ Disease. “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.”
Elliott joins an induction class that includes Cat Stevens (nka Yusuf), Tom T. Hall, John Prine, and Jack Tempchin. Dallas Austin, a songwriter/producer recognized for his work with TLC, P!nk, Gwen Stefanie, and Boyz II Men, will also be inducted. Austin founded Rowdy Records, a label that also featured Rap artists including Illegal and Y’all So Stupid. Outside of those acts, he has produced for Erick Sermon and Poison Clan’s JT Money.
The induction ceremony will take place June 13 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.