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Missy Elliott: Rapper, Singer, Songwriter, and Record Producer

On this day, four-time Grammy winner Missy Elliott, born Melissa Arnette Elliott, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in the year of 1971.

She is the only child of mother Patricia Elliott, a power-company dispatcher, and father Ronnie, a former U.S. Marine.


When her father returned from the Marines during her childhood, they moved back to Virginia, where they lived in extreme poverty.

Elliott has talked about domestic abuse by her father.

As a kid, she refused to stay over at friends homes out of fear that on her return home she would find her mother dead.

In one violent incident, Ronnie Elliott dislocated his wife’s shoulders and during another, Elliott herself was threatened with a gun.

At the age of fourteen, Elliott’s mother decided to end the situation and fled with her daughter on the pretext of taking a joyride on a local bus. In reality, the pair had found refuge at a family member’s home where their possessions were stored in a loaded U-Haul truck.

Elliot states, “When we left, my mother realized how strong she was on her own, and it made me strong. It took her leaving her home to be able to realize that.”

Elliot was also a survivor from another incident in her life. When Elliott was eight, she was molested by a cousin.


Elliott grew up in an active church choir family, and singing was a normal part of her youth.

In 1991, Elliott formed an all female R&B group, called Fayze (later renamed Sista), with friends La’Shawn Shellman, Chonita Coleman, and Radiah Scott. She recruited her neighborhood friend Timothy Mosley (Timbaland) as the group’s producer and began making demo tracks, among them included the 1991 promo “First Move”.

She also became a member of the Swing Mob collective along with childhood friend and longtime collaborator Timbaland, with whom she also worked on projects for American R&B acts Aaliyah, 702, Total, and SWV.

Elliott and Timbaland continued to work together for other artists, later creating hits for artists such as Total; “What About Us?” (1997), Nicole Wray; “Make It Hot” (1998), and Destiny’s Child; “Get on the Bus” (1998), as well as one final hit for Aaliyah, “I Care 4 U”, before her death in 2001.

Elliot finally became a solo artist and rapper with her debut album Supa Dupa Fly which spawned the top 20 single “Sock It 2 Me”. The album itself also debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, the highest charting debut for a female rapper at the time.

Elliott’s second album, Da Real World, was released on June 22, 1999, and produced the singles “She’s a Bitch”, “All n My Grill”, and top five hit “Hot Boyz”. The remix of the latter song broke the record for most weeks at number-one on the US R&B chart on the issue dated January 15, 2000; as well as spending 18 weeks at number one on the Hot Rap Singles chart, from December 4, 1999, to March 25, 2000. With the release of Miss E… So Addictive (2001), Under Construction (2002), and This Is Not a Test (2003), Elliott established an international career that yielded hits including “Get Ur Freak On”, “One Minute Man”, “4 My People”, “Gossip Folks”, and “Work It”.

Elliott continued her successful career in the background as a producer and writer on Total’s single “Trippin'”, as well as working with several others in the hip-hop and R&B communities. Elliott co-wrote and co-produced two tracks on Whitney Houston’s 1998 album My Love Is Your Love, providing vocal cameos for “In My Business” and “Oh Yes”. Elliott also produced and made a guest appearance on Spice Girl Melanie Brown’s debut solo single, “I Want You Back”, which topped the UK Singles Chart in Brown’s native United Kingdom and is Elliot’s only chart-topping song in that country.

Elliott’s writing and production helped her reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs with Keyshia Cole’s “Let It Go” (2007), Jazmine Sullivan’s “Need U Bad” (2008), and Monica’s “Everything to Me” (2010). Since 2008, songs written and/or produced by Elliott for Fantasia (“Free Yourself”), Jennifer Hudson (“I’m His Only Woman”), Monica (“Everything to Me”), Keyshia Cole (“Let It Go”), and Jazmine Sullivan (“Need U Bad” and “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles)”) have all received Grammy nominations. Both Fantasia’s “Free Yourself” (2005) and Sullivan’s “Holding You Down (Goin’ In Circles)” reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

Throughout 2013, Missy Elliott was featured on Eve’s album cut “Wanna Be”, as well as international artists singles, Little Mix’s “How Ya Doin’?” and “NiLiria” with K-pop musician G-Dragon, which was named by Complex magazine as one of the “50 Best Songs of 2013”. Elliott also contributed to her protégée Sharaya J’s two releases, “Banji” and “Smash Up The Place/Snatch Yo Wigs”. In December 2013, Elliott received a Grammy nomination with Fantasia and Kelly Rowland for their song “Without Me”. As early as July 2013, Missy Elliott and Timbaland held recording sessions for Kat Dahlia’s debut, My Garden (2015). In August 2013, R&B singer Faith Evans revealed that Missy Elliott would be featured on her sixth studio album, tentatively titled Incomparable. In March 2014, Evans revealed one of the tracks was named “I Deserve It”, featuring Missy and her protégée Sharaya J, in which Evans cited it as a “banger” and “feel good” record.Evans also revealed that in total Elliott contributed three tracks to her album. On July 7, 201 4, fellow R&B singer Monica confirmed that Elliott would be a feature on her upcoming eighth studio album.


Her fearlessness and creative style yielded numerous awards and five platinum albums in a row.

Elliott went on to win four Grammy Awards and sell over 30 million records in the United States.

She is the best-selling female rapper in Nielsen Music history, according to Billboard in 2017.

She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Rap Solo Performance for “Work It.”

In June of 2019, she became the first woman rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Her advice?

“Every time I come up to a podium … even with all the work that I’ve done, I don’t know, and I’m assuming it’s just God, I don’t know why I am here,” Elliott said at the award ceremony. “I want to say one thing to the writers, to the upcoming writers, ‘Do not give up.’ We all go through writer’s block. Sometimes you just have to walk away from a record and come back to it. But don’t give up because I’m standing here. And this is big for hip-hop, too.”

Missy Elliott, 2019

She was also honored at the MTV Video Music Awards with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in August 2019 — the same month she released the album “Iconology,” her first collection of new music in 14 years.

In 2020, Billboard ranked her at number five on the 100 Greatest Music Video Artists of All Time.

Missy Elliot is a legend and she remains as creative as she was the day she entered the entertainment scene. Don’t sleep on Missy because she isn’t done yet!

Please leave a comment below if this story resonated with you or if this history impacted you.


RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, y in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.



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