Rock and Roll music was birthed in genres like jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues – fortified by legends such as Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Sh-boom. Some people have come to view rock music with a narrow lens of singer, guitarist, bassist, and drummer in the ilk of bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, and The Foo Fighters. That’s not to say those bands aren’t vastly important in their own right (they absolutely are), but rock and roll is a genre that is supposed to defy convention, shake things up, and be a pillar of unbound creativity. If there is anyone who is the perfect of all things uniquely forward-thinking and of the “rock” mantra of impact, it’s Missy Elliott.
Elliott will be one of 13 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Nov. 3; frankly, it’s overdue. There’s the honor of her being inducted in her first year of eligibility, and her continued career warrants such an accolade. We’re talking 40 million records sold, four Grammy awards, an MTV VMAs Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not to mention, Elliott is the first female rapper to enter the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 30+ years, she is still winning firsts.
That in itself is a double-edged sword. On the surface, an incomparable talent such as Elliott deserves all the flowers in the world. I remember hearing “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” for the first time, seeing the Hype Williams-directed video, and feeling like it was so far ahead of its time. Not to mention, Elliott and Timbaland recorded her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, in two weeks. When you think you could get a handle on her sound, here come songs like “Hot Boyz,” “Get Your Freak On,” “Work It,” and “Lose Control.” That’s not mentioning her production credits ranging from artists like the late, great Aaliyah, Ciara, Monica, and Beyonce.
One of Missy’s most remarkable characteristics is being timeless, like you would listen to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” Skrillex released his collaboration with Elliott and Mr. Oizo a couple of months ago, “RATATA,” which chronicles her long-standing influence and ability to jump into any setting and rip it. You can go on and on about how deserving Elliott is of this moment and still feel like you’re missing something. There’s also the elephant in the room of this illogical thinking that hip-hop and rock and roll are separate – when they are joined at the hip.
The same rebellious spirit present in the punk 1970s at CBGBs with groups like The Clash, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols was in the souls of LaVern Baker and Fats Domino in juke joints. Then, voices like Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and NWA used the forum to be the voices chronicling the plights of the Black community. Its artistry not only serves as an amplifier to underserved communities and ignored voices, but it also continues to change in a way that stays ahead of the curve.
Who better to personify all of that than Missy Elliott? In a world that seeks to stifle the voices of Black women, Elliott not only rejected any preconceived notions of what she could do, she grew her talents to unmeasurable heights. What is more rock and roll than that?