Missy Elliott is a music trailblazer. Here's what to know about her influence. (2024)

It almost sounds unbelievable, but it's true: the "Out of This World" tour is really Missy Elliott's first-ever headlining one.

The iconic rapper, 53, is circling the U.S. this summer (her tour kicks off this weekend), and she will be joined by Busta Rhymes, Ciara and Timbaland.

Elliott, who has been called the "queen of rap" and a "trailblazer," has not only been in the business for decades, working with many high-profile artists, but she also was the first female rapper and has earned several Grammys, among other awards.

And yet, we don't hear much about her. Yes, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott (her real name is Melissa) sometimes shies away from the limelight and rarely gives interviews, but why does it seem like so many are unaware of her work or influence?

To say she's underrated isn't quite right: Her home must be near to bursting with trophies and plaques. But for all her significant work in not only hip hop, but other music genres, Missy Elliott is decidedly under the radar – and perhaps even overlooked.

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So we decided to review and highlight some of the ways Missy Elliott has been influential in the industry and why she deserves more flowers.

Missy Elliott has many accolades

Missy Elliott is a music trailblazer. Here's what to know about her influence. (1)

Let's start by diving into the details some of Elliott's accolades and awards. Not only is she the first female rapper inducted into the Rock Hall, Elliott is also one of few artists to be inducted their first year of eligibility. She is also the only female rap artist to be inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

Elliott is the bestselling female rapper in Nielsen history, according to Billboard.

She has won four Grammy Awards, with 22 nominations. She has also won six BET Awards, a Billboard Women in Music Innovator award, an NAACP award, and she received the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2019.

Missy Elliott has been a force behind the scenes

Elliott's longtime partnership with record producer/rapper Timbaland is fairly well known, but some may not know their team-ups haven't just been singing. Prior to and outside of her own solo work, Elliott wrote and produced with Timbaland for other artists, such as Aaliyah, SWV and 702.

Missy Elliott is a music trailblazer. Here's what to know about her influence. (2)

Timbaland produced her debut studio album "Supa Dupa Fly" (1997), which was a critical and commercial success.

But her collaborations didn't slow with her own productions.

Over the years, Elliott has worked with so many industry leaders, including Whitney Houston, Lil Kim, Da Brat, Ludacris, Mariah Carey, Ciara, Pharrell Williams and Beyoncé.

And even more artists, such as Doja Cat, Janelle Monáe, Tayla Parx and Tyler the Creator, have named Elliott as an inspiration for them.

Elliott's work reflects sex positivity and body inclusivity

In case you just jammed to the chorus and didn't really pay attention to the lyrics, "Work It" (2002) is not about doing well at your day job.

With lines references "getting your freak on," "chubby waist," "throwing it back," "hot boys" and "one-minute men," Elliotts songs are often far from sexually shy, the lyrics thick with sly double entendres and sensual wit.

Elliott has boldly owned this expression of sexual pleasure, intimacies and desires in ways sometimes only male artists seem comfortable.

But beyond this feminine gaze at sex, Elliott also includes honesty about her body, how others may see her body and owning who you are, no matter your looks, race, weight or sexuality. Elliott has said that her song "Gossip Folks" (2002) was a response to people poking into her life, talking about her weight or making assumptions about her sexuality. The rapper shared in a 2011 interview she had been battling Graves' disease.

Missy Elliott's work is innovative

Missy Elliott's style and sound are always evolving. Her music videos and her tracks are creative, almost chaotic sometimes.

From her "trash bag suit" in her "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" (1997) to the reverse lyrics in "Work It" to the marionette dances in "WTF (Where They From)" (2015), Elliott delivers fun, infectious energy and a wild feast for the eyes and ears. Her music videos and live performances also often celebrate Blackness or includes elements of Afrofuturism, weaving in imagery or symbols from science fiction, art and Black culture.

Queen Latifah, an iconic rapper in her own right, called Elliott "a futurist," and it's clear that Elliott is very much a trailblazer not content to stay in one lane.

Missy Elliott is a music trailblazer. Here's what to know about her influence. (2024)
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