Missy ElliottView in iTunes
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No female rap artist paralleled the success of Missy Elliott, neither during her reign nor before, and none was more deserving. Unlike most of urban music's female superstars, Missy writes her own songs as well as performs them, and her creative wit in on a par with her stylish demeanor. In addition to her talent and showmanship, she established herself as a genuine hitmaker alongside her longtime producer, Timbaland. She initially scored hits for others, namely Aaliyah ("One in a Million," "If Your Girl Only Knew") and to a lesser extent 702 ("Steelo"), before moving on to score a dazzling run for herself. Her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly (1997), spawned a number of hits such as "The Rain" that were more trend-setting than they were chart-topping. The chart-toppers, of course, came soon after: "She's a Bitch" and "Hot Boyz" (1999); "Get Ur Freak On" and "One Minute Man" (2001); and "Work It" and "Gossip Folks" (2002). In each of these, Missy proved that, with both dignity and joviality, women could be sexual as well as forceful. As a result, she defied every stereotype imaginable without forsaking her broad fan base. Born in Portsmouth, VA, in 1971 as Melissa Elliott, Missy's professional music career began when Jodeci member/producer Devante Swing signed her and her group, Sista, to his Swing Mob record label. Unfortunately, Swing Mob Records fell through and along with it the plans for Sista's debut album. Determined to move forward, Missy turned to longtime acquaintance Timbaland, who happened to be producing some tracks for Aaliyah's One in a Million (1996) album. It proved to be a key move for Missy, as the album racked up enormous sales. Soon record execs were knocking on her door. Missy began working with a number of artists as either a songwriter or a vocalist/rapper before finally signing herself a deal with Elektra in 1996. A year later, Supa Dupa Fly hit the streets and soon after went platinum thanks to "The Rain." Besides the sales numbers, the album also proved critically successful, impressing nearly everyone who heard it. It had not only radio-ready singles ("Sock It 2 Me," "Beep Me 911," "Hit 'Em Wit da Hee") but also an astounding array of album tracks that showcases just how multi-talented Missy indeed was, singing on some, rapping on others. In 1999, she returned with her much-awaited follow-up album, Da Real World, an even more ambitious album that featured two mammoth hits -- "She's a Bitch" and "Hot Boyz" -- along with an array of often daring collaborations with such unlikely candidates as Eminem. Around this same time, she began appearing in TV ads for the Gap and Sprite, proving that not only was she a musical talent but also an important icon for the era. The cycle repeated itself in 2001 when she released Miss E...So Addictive, again powered by two huge hits: "Get Ur Freak On" and "One Minute Man." Her remarkable popularity continued a year later with her next album, Under Construction, and its hit singles, "Work It" and "Gossip Folks." Missy's music machine continued pummeling the charts, with Timbaland & Magoo's follow-up Under Construction, Pt. II appearing in mid-November and the new Elliott LP This Is Not a Test! released a week later. Ciara, Slick Rick, Mary J. Blige, and American Idol winner Fantasia were some of the guests on Missy's 2005 album The Cookbook. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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July 1, 1971 in Portsmouth, VA
'90s, '00s, '10s