Versions of “she’s back!” pinged around Twitter’s echo chamber after Missy Elliott’s three-song medley during the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show. But we shouldn’t call it a comeback.
When those first seconds of “Get Ur Freak On” dropped, it was chill-inducing to see the 43-year-old Missy beaming, bouncing around and graciously stealing Katy Perry’s 14.4 million-viewer spotlight. The performance was so widely-loved, it translated into a 2,500% sales bump for Missy, who hasn’t released an album in 10 years.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the late 1990s – early 2000s nostalgia that hearing “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It” and “Lose Control” can spark, but a case can be made that Missy never left us, thanks to her behind-the-scenes work. She had a slowdown in 2008 – 2011, when she announced she had Graves’ disease and “couldn’t even use a pen” at one point. But her name still appeared on production credits for Monica and Jazmine Sullivan during that time.
Since her early career in the Swing Mob collective to her current Goldmind imprint at Atlantic Records, Missy has been writing for and providing a platform to support other artists, most notably for women who owned their sex appeal and pushed boundaries of what pop-R&B could sound like.
Missy has been dropping breadcrumbs of possible new work, but in the mean time, let’s appreciate the other strong women she’s help introduce us to, from the disbanded 702 to current BANJI-movement leader Sharaya J.
Missy co-wrote and is featured on 702’s 1996 debut song, “Steelo,” calling the track “nasty like pornography” in her verse. The song’s lyrics are actually quite tame, but center around the young ladies keeping it real, not playing games, and confidently asking a guy for his name and number. The trio has disbanded, but singer Kameelah Williams can be seen on the latest season of “R&B Divas: Atlanta.”
The young Aaliyah already had success under her belt with the album “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” before she began working with Missy and Timbaland. But her work on “One in a Million” transformed her from another sultry R&B artist to a cutting-edge force. Missy and Timbaland brought the weirdo digital beats to Aaliyah, leaving us with a legend. And the album helped solidify both Missy and Timbaland’s careers.
The Missy and Ciara combo always results in a fierce dance hit. They collabed on “1, 2 Step,” “Lose Control” and “Work.” The all-around performer Ciara has commented on the energy they give each other and has said that Missy is someone she goes to for early feedback on music.
Nicole Wray’s 1998 album “Make it Hot” was largely written and produced by Missy. In the album’s single, Missy name-drops Nicole alongside Timbaland, Magoo, Aaliyah and Ginuwine. Despite this star power behind her, we didn’t hear much from Nicole afterwards. She’s still making music in the soul duo Lady and we’re thankful for the R&B heater she left behind.
Missy’s latest protegee is Sharaya J, who pushes a movement she calls BANJI (Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality). Missy has even helped direct a couple of her music videos, which are silly, but wonderfully choreography-heavy. The latest, “Takin’ It No More,” even samples Missy’s “Take Away” – a tribute to Aaliyah.
Tweet co-wrote “Oops (Oh My)” with Missy, which is the ultimate self-love song. Subtly risque, but grown, it was a welcome addition to the TRL mix of early 2002. Before this hit, Tweet was connected to Missy through her Swing Mob days and did vocals on Missy’s 2001 “Miss E… So Addictive” album.