President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": Missy Elliott came out looking like somebody's science project in the "Sock It to Me" video. She had her back-up dancers doing the robot in "Beep Me (911)" and wearing strange, old-school dresses. Then she switched into some weird girl version of a firefighter style outfit while producer Timbaland and Magoo wore the most wretched wigs ever. Now we thought that was odd, but when she came out wearing a puffy garbage bag in ''Supa Dupa Fly," we knew she was officially unique. We heard her singing "vroom" and random noises like "yee yee yee yee yow" on her songs and thought, "What the hell is she talking about?" And we gawked before immediately clamping our mouths closed when a guy swallowed Missy's spit in "Get Ur Freak On." That's when we knew Missy and her stretched-out neck had no intention of being like any other female (or male) artist we'd ever encountered.
The average woman couldn't pull this off, and hip-hop heads would've considered her a gimmick. But what worked for Missy was she could dance her butt off, rhyme on point, sing well and effectively compliment each of Timbaland's beats. Sometimes an artist can get lost in the instrumental, but that never happened. This duo really is "so tight that you get our styles tangled."
Female rappers were trying to be as prissy and look like a man's wet dream, but Missy knew she didn't have traditional model looks. That worked to her advantage, plus her hair was always whipped to perfection. Droves of girls clipped their weaves to get stacked and feathered haircuts. Beauticians got photos of Missy with customers saying. "I want to look like her." And while she came to be known for tight lyrics, juking on the dance floor (remember when she learned Chicago footwork in "Lose Control"?), her fans looked forward to whatever her next wacky video was.
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: Women get a lot of flack for not being able to hold their own or get the same respect as male rappers. Although I was a huge fan of Salt n' Pepa, MC Lyte and Queen Latifah, it'd been a long time since I liked a female emcee. New female emcees were coming off like men with vaginas talking about busting shots and calling themselves "bitches" nonstop, looking like they stepped out of a Mattel factory gone awry or like they should've been the hood version of Victoria's Secret with nothing to talk about outside of wanting diamonds. I wasn't feeling it. It's difficult for me to respect an artist who doesn't seem to respect herself. But there were a few female rappers who fought against the odds and came out swinging talent.
I was 16 and taking a creative writing class at Morgan Park. The assignment was to take a fairy tale and change it into a new school song. I chose "Sock It To Me" and sang, "It was just around midnight, and I decided to go. Hang out with a prince y'all. My stepsisters were out of control." By the time I hit the chorus of "I'm going crazy, I talk to mice, you see," my classmates were cheering me on. I can't remember the rest of the song, but I remember getting a loud round of applause when I was done singing about Cinderella. I got an "A" on that assignment and from then on, I've been a loyal fan of Missy's music and bought all of her albums.
Accomplishments from the Artist: Missy started off writing hit music for artists like the late Aaliyah and working with Timbaland after leaving the girl group Sista. When she went solo, the public embraced her, her award-winning songs and award-winning music videos. She won multiple times with a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award, Soul Train Music Award, MTV Video Award, BET Award, American Music Award and Grammy Awards, along with a Vibe Award. She might as well have owned the Billboard charts with hit singles like "One Minute Man" (42 weeks), "Lose Control" (27 weeks), "Get Ur Freak On" (25 weeks), "Work It" (25 weeks), "Take Away" (20 weeks), "Sock It to Me" (20 weeks), "Gossip Folks" (20 weeks), "Pass That Dutch" (15 weeks), "I'm Really Hot" (10 weeks), "Ching a Ling" (9 weeks), "She's a Bitch" (6 weeks), "We Run This" (5 weeks) and "Pussycat" (5 weeks). Other hot artists who've been able to work with her include the late Aaliyah, Ciara, Fantasia, Ginuwine, Left Eye of TLC, Jay Z, MC Lyte, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Slick Rick. With six studio albums — the first female hip-hop artist who had five studio albums, which she said on "The Mo'Nique Show" — Missy's body of work is highly respected. And she's probably the only female rapper out now who can dance as well as the late Aaliyah and Ciara.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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