In 1990 Missy Elliott, La Shawn Shellman, Chonita Coleman, and Radiah Scott formed an R&B group called Sista. She recruited her neighborhood friend Timothy Mosleyand her Travel Friend Rene' Diamond Hilton as the group's producer and began making demo tracks. In 1991, Sista caught the attention of Jodeci member and producer DeVante Swing by performing Jodeci songs a cappella for him backstage after one of his group's concerts. In short order, Sista moved to New York City, signed to Elektra Records through DeVante's Swing Mob imprint. Elliott took Mosley (whom DeVante re-christened Timbaland) and their friend Melvin "Magoo" Barcliff along with her.
All 20-plus members of the Swing Mob, among them future stars such as Ginuwine, Playa, and Tweet, lived in a single two-story house in New York and were often at work on material both for Jodeci and their own projects. While Elliott wrote and rapped on Raven-Symoné's debut 1993 single, "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of", she also contributed songwriting duties, credited and uncredited, to the final two Jodeci albums: 1993's Diary of a Mad Band and 1995's The Show, The After Party, The Hotel. Timbaland and DeVante produced a Sista LP, 4 All the Sistas Around the World, completed in 1994. Though videos were released for the original and remix versions of the single "Brand New," the album was shelved and never released. One of the group's tracks "It's Alright" featuring Craig Mack did make the Dangerous Minds (Soundtrack) in 1995. But by the end of 1995, Swing Mob had folded and many of its members dispersed; Elliott, Timbaland, Magoo, Ginuwine, and Playa remained together and collaborated on each others' records for the rest of the decade.
After Swing Mob
After leaving Swing Mob, Elliott and Mosley (Timbaland) worked together as a songwriting/production team, crafting tracks for acts including SWV ("Can We?" 1997) and 702 ("Steelo" and its remix), but the most notable of them was Aaliyah. Elliott and Timbaland wrote and produced nine tracks for Aaliyah's second album, One in a Million (1996) among them the hit singles "If Your Girl Only Knew," "One in a Million," "Hot Like Fire," and "4 Page Letter." Elliott contributed background vocals and/or guest raps to nearly all of the tracks on which she and Timbaland worked. One in a Million went double-platinum and made stars out of the production duo.
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.
Elliott began her career as a featured vocalist rapping on Sean "Puffy" Combs's Bad Boy remixes to Gina Thompson's "The Things That You Do," (which had a video featuring cameo appearances by Notorious B.I.G and Puff Daddy), MC Lyte's 1996 single "Cold Rock a Party" (backup vocals by Gina Thompson), and New Edition's 1996 single "You Don't Have to Worry." Combs had hoped to sign Elliott to his Bad Boy record label. Also that year Elliott appeared on the Men of Vizion's remix of "Do Thangz" which was produced by Rodney Jerkins (coincidentally the producer of the original version of "The Things That You Do").
She instead signed a deal with EastWest Records, a division of Elektra Entertainment Group at that time, in 1996 to create her own imprint, The Goldmind Inc., for which she would record as a solo artist. Timbaland was again recruited as her production partner, a role he would hold on most Elliott solo releases.
Missy also appeared in LSG's song "All the Time" with Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, Faith Evans, and Coko in 1997 on Levert Sweat Gill classic album. The same year, she rapped in "Keys To My House" with old friends group LeVert.
Supa Dupa Fly
In the center of a busy period making guest appearances and writing for other artists, Elliott's debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, was released in mid-1997; the success of its lead single "The Rain" led the album to be certified platinum. The album was also nominated for Best Rap Album at the 1998 Grammy Awards, but lost to Puff Daddy's No Way Out. The year also saw Elliott perform live at the MTV Video Music Awards show on a remix to Lil' Kim's "Ladies Night" with fellow rappers Da Brat, Angie Martinez and TLC-rapper Left Eye.
In 1998, 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. The same year, Elliott also produced and made a guest appearance on Spice Girl Melanie B's debut solo single, "I Want You Back," which topped the UK Singles Chart.
[Da Real World
Although a much darker album than her debut, Elliott's second album was just as successful as the first selling 1.5 million copies and 3 million copies worldwide. She remarked, "I can't even explain the pressure. The last album took me a week to record. This one took almost two months…I couldn't rush it the second time because people expect more." Da Real World (1999) included the singles "All n My Grill," a collaboration with Nicole Wray and Big Boi (from OutKast), a remix to "Hot Boyz" and "She's a Bitch". Also in 1999, Elliott was featured, alongside Da Brat, on the official remix to the popular Mariah Carey single "Heartbreaker".
Miss E… So Addictive
Missy Elliott next released Miss E… So Addictive in 2001. The album spawned the massive pop and urban hits "One Minute Man", featuring Ludacris and Trina, and "Get Ur Freak On", as well as the international club hit "4 My People" and the less commercially-successful single *"Take Away"*. The double music video for "Take Away/4 My People" was released in the fall of 2001, shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the death of Elliott's good friend Aaliyah in August. The "Take Away" video contained images of and words about Aaliyah, and the slow ballad acted as a tribute to her memory. The remainder of the video was the more upbeat "4 My People", contained scenes of people dancing happily in front of American flags and Elliott dressed in red, white and blue. Though "Take Away" was not a success on radio, "4 My People" went on to become an American and European club hit due to a popular techno Basement Jaxx remix in 2002.
Tweet's appearance on Elliott's "Take Away" as well as her cameo at Elliott's house on MTV Cribs helped to create a buzz about the new R&B singer. Tweet's own debut single, "Oops (Oh My)", was co-written by Elliott and released through Goldmind in February 2002. The single was a top ten hit, thanks partially to Elliott's songwriting and guest rap, and to Timbaland's unusual production on the track. Elliott co-produced the Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink cover of "Lady Marmalade" for the Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film album, which went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001.
For her next outing, Elliott and Timbaland focused on an old school sound, utilizing many old school rap and funk samples, such as Run DMC's "Peter Piper" and Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus" (in "Work It" and "Gossip Folks", respectively). Elliott's fourth album, 2002's Under Construction (see 2002 in music), included the aforementioned singles "Work It", Elliott's second biggest hit to date, and the successful duet with Ludacris, "Gossip Folks". As the "Work It" video had done during 2002, "Gossip Folks" became one of the most-played music videos on MTV, MTV2, MTV Jams, and BET in 2003. It received significantly less attention than "Work It" at urban radio, but was embraced by the dance community, as well as the mainstream, due to a Fatboy Slim remix. Although not released as single and with no video, "Pussycat", peaked at number 77 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album is known as the best selling female rap album ever with 2.1 million copies sold in the United States.
Under Construction also included a track called "Back In The Day", a nostalgic ode to old school hip hop music and fashion that featured guest vocals from Jay-Z and Tweet. A video was shot and an article on MTV.com was posted, but the video was never released.
Early 2003, Elliott produced the "American Dream Remix" (featuring Tweet's additional vocals) of Madonna's single "American Life". In the summer of 2003, Elliott was the featured rapper on Timbaland & Magoo's long-awaited return single, "Cop That Shit"; the song was a modest hit at urban radio.
For the soundtrack to the Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles movie by the same name, Elliott produced "Fighting Temptation" (featuring herself, Beyoncé, Free and MC Lyte) which reached the number one spot in Japan but failed to chart in the U.S. Hot 100.
This Is Not a Test!
A year after Elliott's most successful album to date was released, Elliott felt pressured by her label to release another album, hoping to capitalize on her recent success. Elliott's singles, "Pass That Dutch" and "I'm Really Hot", from her fifth album, This Is Not a Test! (released November 2003), both rose the urban charts. However, both were not as successful at pop radio in comparison to many of her previous efforts. Elliott has since stated "This Is Not A Test! came out extremely too quickly for me. I didn't want it to come out when it did."
Also in 2003, Elliott was featured on Wyclef Jean's "Party to Damascus" and Ghostface Killah's "Tush" singles, the latter of which became a minor 2004 dance hit, and had a pivotal role in the film Honey, starring Jessica Alba. Gap approached Elliott later in the year to co-star in a commercial with Madonna, which received much media attention. Elliott furthered her relationship with Madonna by performing the controversial 2003 MTV Video Music Awards show opening alongside Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
In 2004, Elliott was featured on Ciara's hit single "1, 2 Step", with her verse interpolating Teena Marie's single, "Square Biz".
Elliott premiered her own reality show on the UPN Network, The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott in mid-2005. Although the series never made impressive ratings, it did maintain a solid audience. The winner, Jessica Betts, has yet to release an album or single, which was the prize of the show.
This Is Not A Test sold 143,600 in its first week of being released and sold 690,000 copies in the United States and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Following her less than usual sales from her previous album, Elliott wanted to "give people the unexpected" by utilizing producers other than Timbaland and a "more to the center" sound not as far left as her other music. Her sixth solo album, The Cookbook was released in July 2005 and debuted at number two on the U.S. charts. Its first single, "Lose Control", which featured Ciara and Fatman Scoop, became a Top 10 hit in the early summer (peaking at number three on the Billboard Hot 100), and the other album tracks featured guest appearances from Mike Jones, Fantasia, M.I.A., Slick Rick, Mary J. Blige, and Pharrell. The video for "Lose Control" garnered Elliott six 2005 MTV VMA award nominations, ultimately winning two awards in the categories Best Dance Video and Best Hip-Hop Video in August 2005. After the VMA's, Elliott released "Teary Eyed" which charted lowly, although the video charted on MTV's TRL for a few weeks, and BET's 106 & Park for a few days. "Teary Eyed" is one of the few tracks that showcase Elliott with her talented ability to also sing well.
In early September, Elliott tore her Achilles tendon while shooting the music video for her song "We Run This", requiring surgery and a long recovery, thus dampening promotion efforts for The Cookbook. In November 2005, Elliott won Best Female Hip Hop Artist at the 2005 American Music Awards, defeating colleagues Lil' Kim and Trina. Also in November, Elliott's remixed version of Ashlee Simpson's "L.O.V.E." (from her second album, I Am Me) was included on the CD single.
In December 2005, Elliott was nominated for five Grammy Awards, including two for "Lose Control" (Best Short Form Video, which she won and Best Rap Song), one for The Cookbook (Best Rap Album), one for writing Fantasia's "Free Yourself" (Best R&B Song), and one for "1, 2 Step" with Ciara (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration). Elliott was also nominated for Best International Female Artist at the 2006 BRIT Awards.
In early 2006, Elliott's single and video for "We Run This" was released with heavy airplay on VH1, MTV, and BET. It served as the lead single for the soundtrack to the gymnastics-themed film Stick It.
Missy Elliott was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Solo Performance category for "We Run This".
The Cookbook received overall favorable reviews from critics and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, (RIAA), selling 645,000 copies in the United States and received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album.
Respect M.E., Elliott's first greatest hits album, was released outside the United States and Canada on September 4, 2006, only in South Africa, Australia, Europe, Japan, and Brazil. The collection became her second top ten album in the UK and her highest charting album to date, peaking at number seven there. According to the BPI, it has been certified Gold for sales of over 100,000 units in the UK and 500,000 copies world wide.
The album cover shows Missy Elliott riding a Friesian horse with a dark, cloudy background. The M.E. can be understood as either the word 'me' or could be referring to Missy Elliott. "Respect M.E." is also the name of her clothing line produced by Adidas. "Take Away" did not make the album cut but was replaced with the more successful Basement Jaxx dance remix of "4 My People".
Elliott was an honoree of the 2007 VH1 Hip Hop Honors. In honor of her career, many artists performed some of her biggest hits. Timbaland and Tweet performed "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," Eve and Keyshia Cole performed "Hot Boyz" and "Work It", Fatman Scoop and Ciara performed "Lose Control," and Nelly Furtado performed "Get Ur Freak On (The Remix)." The show aired October 8, 2007.
Respect M.E. became her second top ten album in the UK and her highest charting album to date, peaking at number seven. According to BPI it has been certified Gold for sales of over 100,000 units in the UK and 500,000 copies world wide. In 2007, the album became available in Best Buy stores in the US.
In January 2008, Ching-a-Ling was released as the lead single for the Step Up 2 the Streets soundtrack. Shake Your Pom Pom, produced by Timbaland, is also on the soundtrack. Both songs may appear on Elliott's forthcoming album.
2009- Working on new Album