A couple of weeks ago on 8/21, CNN reported that the Change.org petition that Portsmouth, Virginia native Nathan Coflin created to replace the Confederate monument in Olde Towne Portsmouth near the intersection of Court and High streets with one of Portsmouth’s hometown heroes/hip hop artist Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot, had almost reached its goal of 25,000 signatures. The petition was created in a response of the continuous battle of confederate symbols since the uproar of the white supremacist rally that was held in Charlottesville, Virginia. With this past July 15th marking the 20th anniversary of her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, Coflin’s petition and the upcoming 15th anniversary of her fourth and Grammy nominated album Under Construction 2017 seems like the perfect year to honor Missy Elliot’s career with a monument in her hometown.
Behind every great hip hop artist is a great producer and the producer that has always been behind Missy is her oldest friend & legendary hip hop producer, Timothy Mosley aka Timbaland. You can make an argument that the two Virginia natives are one of the greatest hip hop producer/rapper duo ever. The historic moments they’ve created in hip hop with their music production puts them in top ranking with other great producer/MC duos before them such as Eric B & Rakim, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, Havoc & the late Prodigy, Puff Daddy & Biggie…and any other combo you can think of. Whether it’s Supa Dupa Fly or Under Construction, it always felt as if Timbaland was beatboxing the sounds that were stored in his mind & what you would get was a groovy electronic funky soul feel that had stuttering rhythms & arrangements that were always unforeseeable. These estranged sounds always gave Missy’s lines more color, because while the poetry in her lyrics were simple, it was the rhythm in her raps that caught listener’s attention. The combination of the two talents matched so perfectly that every Missy Elliot album felt like a party. Timbaland‘s role was the human beatbox/DJ, while Missy was the MC who could rock the crowd by rapping & singing. One minute the crowd could grab a partner & vibe to a digital slow jam like “Friendly Skies”, then switch to a classic upbeat groove like “Gossip Folks.” Though the production always helped her albums stand out, the support & creative freedom from her home label, Elektra Entertainment Group, allowed both Supa Dupa Fly and Under Construction to be as unique as the artist herself.
In the middle of her interview with OTHERtone radio show, Missy Elliot discussed the early stages of her career, saying that she only became an artist because it was the only way she could get a label deal, which was her original desire. Her original intent was to write for other artists which could explain why you can find Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Da Brat, Ginuwine, 702, & the late great Aaliyah on her debut album showcasing Missy’s ability as a songwriter. She also acknowledged during the interview that the lack of fear of succeeding brought the best out of her while creating Supa Dupa Fly. All through the album it seemed as if Missy went into the booth with an carefree mindset & freestyled the first things that came to her head. However, that carefree attitude was able to blossom because of the support the hip hop artist received from then CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group, Sylvia Rhone. Missy states that she always encouraged her to be herself.
“Sylvia was just one of those people who never asked me to change anything about me. She never asked me to drop ten pounds or make a record like this. She never did that, with me or Busta.”
The end result of having a debut album produced by super producer Timbaland & having the green light from a record label to be as unique as possible ended up with Missy being well received with open arms, especially by the hip hop community. Coming out strong with her debut single “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” plus a crazy video to match directed by iconic hip hop video director Hype Williams, hip hop eagerly embraced the music that came from the groovy fun weird MC. During her interview on Sway In The Morning, Missy Elliot talked about having to prove that even though she didn’t possess the criteria look of a star, she was indeed had the talent & personality of one stating “You gotta think at the time everybody was in they little bathing suits and you got the big girl come in this trash bag. Everyone came with the good Indian weave and here I come with finger waves and the black gel. I was totally opposite, but I think it gave it some type of balance & it creates my own lane where it didn’t feel like I was clashing with nobody. It was like…”she crazy, there’s something about her that I like. But she crazy.”” She was absolutely correct, and for the past 20 years fans worldwide have always loved Missy’s crazy approach to music because it created more variety in hip hop & R&B. Both Supa Dupa Fly and Under Construction destroyed the notion that you had to have a certain image to be successful, opening doors for future acts.
The creativity that Missy Elliot put into her debut album Supa Dupa Fly left an impact on hip hop that can still be felt to this day & since then that impact has grown stronger on every album that she has ever dropped, especially on Under Construction. Like many rappers before her, she showed us that as an MC, sometimes it’s not about what you say, but how you say it. Making something as simple as “Beep beep, who got the keys to the Jeep? V-r-rrrrrrrooooom”, a classic hip hop line known worldwide or how a huge lead single like “Work It” can lead her to being one of the only 10 rappers to receive Grammy Award nominations for Album of the Year. Both albums from the veteran displayed how creative and successful anyone can be when they have the freedom to be themselves, something confederate symbols across the country have probably never been able to do. That alone is good enough reason to see a statue that honors Missy Elliot in her hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia.