Born Melissa Elliott in 1971 in Portsmouth, VA. Addresses: Record company--East-West Records, Elektra Entertainment Group, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, NY 10019.; Fan club--Missy Elliott Fan Club, c/o Gejel Enterprise, P.O. Box 923, Temple Hills, MD 20757.
Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott is a phenomenon. She did not merely take the traditionally male-dominated recording industry by storm as a singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, and head of her own label, she did so in one of the most macho, testosterone-laden of all genres, hip-hop--and, remarkably, she achieved all this in only six years time, by the time she was 28. She won a Grammy Award in 2004 for best female rap solo performance, for Work It. Besides Elliott's work writing for and producing the cream of hip-hop and R&B, she has released two CDs to critical and popular acclaim. She was the first hip-hop artist to perform on the Lilith Fair tour. Elliott has been featured in a major ad campaign for the Gap, but she has not hesitated to have fun at the expense of her image in her videos. "Puff Mommy," as Elliott is known to her fans, has even begun working as an actress on The Wayan Brothers television show. Elliott has "established herself as a singer-rapper-writer with a welcome penchant for humor and positivity," wrote Michael Musto in Interview. "And with her unconventional approach and severe distaste for BS, she's probably da realest girl in da biz right now."
Melissa Elliott was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. Her earliest musical experiences were with a church choir. Elliott seems to have known from an early age that she was going to be a star--she told her mother so repeatedly. She began playing the part of the star singer early too. Elliott would sing in her room with a broomstick microphone to an audience of her dolls. "In my mind I pictured them screaming for me. I would go into a whole other zone," she told Joan Morgan of Essence. Elliott wrote her own songs about butterflies, birds, whatever happened to be around. She sang them to passing cars from overturned trash cans, or to her family from atop picnic tables in the park.
Elliott not only vividly imagined herself on stage, she could see her heroes coming to take her to music stardom. "I remember in school writing Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson and asking them to come get me out of class," she told Michael Musto. "I would imagine them running down the hall and asking my teacher, 'Ms. Daniels, can we get Missy out of class? We're here to see Missy.' My imagination was always wild like that. So when I got a call from Janet, just to hear her say she loved my music, it was like a blessing. It was a dream come true to get a call from Mariah [Carey]...and now I'm just waiting for Michael Jackson to call."
Despite realizing many of her dreams and wielding power in the recording industry, Elliott remains a little starstruck by the artists who used to be just voices on records. Whitney Houston called her, she told Musto, and "when I got off the phone I screamed so loud." Elliott's feet are still planted firmly on the ground, however, and she signs autographs patiently for the fans who recognize her on the streets of Manhattan. More significantly, Elliott courageously made public her father's physical abuse of her mother and her own sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin. It was for her a way of taking control of a past that had previously controlled her, as well as drawing attention to a serious social problem that frequently gets swept under the rug.
Elliott got her first musical break in 1991 when the group Jodeci, came to Portsmouth. She took her group, Sista, made up of some of her friends from junior high, to the hotel where Devante Swing, one of the members of Jodeci was staying. He was so impressed by their performance--a set of original tunes written by Elliott--that he signed them to his production company. "We thought we were too hot," Elliott told imusic. "We tried to look just like Jodeci during that audition. We had our pants tucked in our boots. We had begged our mothers to get us these outfits. We even had our canes. We thought we were four hot Devantes."
Sista cut their first album in 1995, and broke up when it became clear that Elektra Records could not afford to release it. Elliott had formed a production team at the company with Timbaland, a childhood friend. Elliott wrote the songs for artists such as Jodeci, Raven-Symone, and 702, and Timbaland produced the records. It was a combination that worked. The two were still working together in late 2000. Despite Sista's apparent failure, Elliott had gotten noticed. "People started to call for songs, or ask me to rap or something, she told imusic.
One call came from singer Aaliyah, who was looking for a new producer. Elliott and Timbaland entered the picture and the result was four big singles from Aaliyah's CD One In A Million: "4 Page Letter," "Hot Like Fire," "If Your Girl Only Knew" and the title track. Sylvia Rhone, the chairman and CEO of the Elektra Entertainment Group, took notice. She offered Elliott, then a mere 22 years of age, a deal that included writing and producing opportunities, her own recording label (The Gold Mind, Inc.), and eventually an contract as an artist. "You could recognize instantly that Missy possessed star potential," Rhone told Morgan.
Elliott has since worked with a number of other superstar singers, including Houston, Janet Jackson, Carey, Paula Cole, Scary Spice, and Nicole. In addition to her writing, arranging and producing, she began making guest appearances, notably on Gina Thompson's "The Things You Do," in which she displayed her infectious laughter and did a one-of-a-kind slide. "That one caused people to start coming up to me on the street and say 'Ain't you the 'Hee Ha' girl?,'" she told imusic. "They don't even know my name and they'll say, 'Hee Ha girl, do that slide across the floor. '"
Musto asked Elliott if she ever worried that her work as a label executive, songwriter and producer would distract her from making her own music. "No," she replied, "because I really enjoy writing and producing for other artists. Some people save their best songs for their own albums. I'd rather give another artist one of my songs. At the end of the day, it still represents me."
Despite the fact that the world seemed to be waiting with baited breath, it took Elliott some time before she finally released the first CD of her own. "I was not going to make a record just to make one, if you know what I mean," she told imusic. "I wasn't going to do a record if I couldn't mix it up." The result was 1997's Supa Dupa Fly, a record critically praised as forging an innovative new direction for hip-hop. John Bartleson wrote that "open-minded hip-hop heads may find Elliott's intelligent yet indulgent, anesthetized electro-funk flow a persuasive argument for the unification of rap and R&B." In "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," for example, she deliberately distanced herself from the violent themes that run through so much other hip-hop. "I don't knock nobody's hustle," she told imusic, "but everybody don't want to hear that. You get that on the news and it depresses you enough." Supa Dupa Fly ended up going platinum and receiving a Grammy nomination.
Her second album, Da Real World, had more of a street feel. It produced a controversial single, "She's a B****," a song which addressed her power--and attitude--as a woman. "Music is a male-dominated field," Elliott explained to Musto. "Women are not always taken as seriously as we should be, so sometimes we have to put our foot down. To other people, that may come across as being a b****, but it's just knowing what we want and being confident." Da Real World also went platinum, and garnered both a Grammy nomination and three MTV Video Music awards.
Elliott's artistic success is reflected in the prices she is able to command for her services. She earns six-figure checks for single tracks, money she has used to buy three Mercedes Benzes, a Cadillac SUV, a Lexus, and a Jaguar XK8. She also lavishes gifts, including flowers, minks, and cash, on her mother with whom she remains very close. She was building a small mansion in Portsmouth for the two of them. She has invested part of her fortune in her own lipstick brand, Misdemeanor Lipstick, produced by a cosmetic company headed by former super-model Iman. Part of the profits from the product go to Break the Cycle, a group that helps victims of domestic violence.
While already spending mornings in meetings at her label and afternoons and evenings in the studio, Elliott intends to continue to expand her activities. She has begun doing ads for Gap and Sprite, makes TV appearances, and hopes to break into movies. "It ain't easy but I've got goals in life. And I'm going to step forth and do all of them," she told Morgan.
Elliott in 2003 received two 2003 MTV Video Music Awards for the best video of the year and best hip-hop video for Work It, right before her 2004 Grammy for the same title. She also took the American Music Award for favorite female rap/hip-hop artist. Elliott, who has performed in a reality series for United Paramount Network involving aspiring musicians, shared the BET Award in 2005, for best collaboration, for 1, 2, Step with Ciara, and also won two MTV Video Music Awards, including best dance video and best hip-hop video, both for Lose Control with Ciara and Fat Man Scoop.
by Evelyn Hauser
Missy Elliott's Career
Auditioned with group Sista for Devante Swing of Jodeci, 1991; with partner Timbaland, began writing and producing acts such as Jodeci, Raven-Symone and 702, 1992; Sista cut first and only album, Brand New, 1995; wrote seven tracks for Aaliyah's blockbuster CD, One In A Million, 1996; received major songwriting, recording and production deal, and label of her own from Elektra Entertainment, 1996; worked with superstars such as Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Paula Cole, Scary Spice, and Nicole, 1996-1999; released debut solo album, Supa Dupa Fly, 1997; made follow-up CD, Da Real Life, 1999; Missy E ... So Addictive, 2001; won MTV Video Music Awards for video of the year and best hip-hop video for Work It, 2003; won American Music Award for favorite female rap/hip-hop artist, 2003; won Grammy Award for top solo performance, for Work It, 2004; shared BET Award for best collaboration, for 1, 2, Step with Ciara, 2005; won MTV Video Music Awards for best dance video and best hip-hop video, for Lose Control with Ciara and Fat Man Scoop.
- Selected discography
- With Sista
- Brand New , Elektra, 1995.
- Supa Dupa Fly , East-West, 1997.
- Da Real World , East-West, 1999.
- Miss E ... So Addictive , 2001.
- Under Construction (Clean) , 2002.
- This Is Not a Test , 2003.
- Cookbook , 2005.
June 27, 2006: Elliott won the BET award for best female hip-hop artist. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, June 30, 2006.
- Essence, March, 2000.
- Interview, June, 1999.
- 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx (February 8, 2004).
- 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx (February 8, 2004).
- ABCNews.com, www.abcnews.go.com/sections/Entertainment/GoodMorningAmerica/American_Music_Awards_031117-1.html (November 17, 2003).
- chiff.com, www.chiff.com/pop-culture/bet-awards.htm (August 2, 2005).
- CNN.com, www.cnn.com (August 29, 2003).
- E! Online, www.eonline.com (March 4, 2004).
- Missy Elliott, imusic, http://imusic.com/showcase/urban/missy.html (September 18, 2000).
- Missy Elliott at Elektra Records, http://missy-elliott.com (September 18, 2000).
- MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com/sendme.tin?page=/news/gallery/m/missyfeature99.html (September 18, 2000).
- Yahoo! News, http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050829/ap_on_en_mu/mtv_awards_list_2 (August 29, 2005).