This month marked the 20th anniversary of Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s debut album Supa Dupa Fly. Missy was an influential player in the hip-hop world from the early 90s to mid 2000s. Her lyrics were humorous and original and her music videos always had a diverse group of dancers with on point choreography. Her style was a unique mix of street cred with some crazy flair and by the time you saw one of her videos on MTV, you were able to recognize her music, beats, and style since day one. What did seem to go unnoticed until recently, however, was how Elliot’s music was always about celebrating women.
Before Beyoncé telling girls to “Run The World” and Nicki Minaj’s big booty anthem “Anaconda” contributing to this new wave of feminism, the five-time Grammy winner h was using the hip-hop platform for such purposes throughout her career. Many of her songs demonstrated self confidence in her artistry, her curvy body image, and of course, sexuality. We may not have realized it back then but her musical legacy has been an influence on all women, but especially black women, by encouraging us to be just as confident within ourselves. 20 years later, her influence on the music scene still reigns supreme. Here is a look back at some of her best songs that prove that Missy Elliot is a feminist icon that we can all learn from.
- Work It– While this song is about black female sexuality, it’s also about working black women . The lyrics shows that she is at the top of her rapping game (literally rapping forwards and backwards) as well as taking ownership of her sexuality. There is a portion of the song where she encourages all women, including sex workers, to make a living for yourself. As along as you are “ahead of the game” and earning your money, don’t be ashamed in what you’re doing. Even if you are working in a male dominated industry, such as entertainment. Missy Elliott doesn’t dismiss the guys in her field (she gives Prince a shoutout). She just proves that she is just as talented as they are. Her other classic “Get Your Freak On” falls along these lines as well.
- We Run This– This song is all about knowing that you got what it takes to succeed. Missy knew her style can’t be “duplicated or recycled” because she knows she stands out. She tells black women that each of us are unique and are able to contribute to the world. It’s not about where you are from. It’s all about where you are at.
- Lose Control– Missy Elliot was not ashamed of showing off her figure. She is 5’2”, thick, curvy, and sexy. Still, as the song says, “rump shaking both ways, make you do a double take”. She combated society’s lame beauty standards by claiming her full figured body, reminding the world you do not need to be skinny or white to be considered beautiful.
- 1,2 Step– Missy Elliott frequently collaborated with her friends such as Timabland, Aaliyah, Ludacris, Pharell, and Ciara. What I love about this track is here we have a mentor with her student. They also worked together on Lose Control, but their friendship is more prevalent in the video for 1,2 Step. We see them laugh and dance together along with the guys. Feminism is all about helping other women from all walks of life and inspiring each other. She showed that not every woman shares the same story, skin color, or income so it’s important to form strong bonds of friendship with other women.
- She’s A B*tch– Many feminist celebrities like Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler, and Shonda Rhimes today are reclaiming negative words such as “bossy” to make it a more uplifting term for a woman in power. In the 1990s, Missy Elliott took back the slur “b*tch”. She transformed the word from being a derogatory term for a girl to an empowering slang for a woman in leadership. Hands down, Missy is a leader. So if people called her the b-word for being tough, she owned it.
- I’m Really Hot – Obviously, Missy Elliot is no stranger to high self esteem and for good reason. She knows women need to feel good about themselves because it’s all about being confident in yourself to get to where you want to be. She would not let anyone tear her down. Even if she did, she got right back up.