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Revisiting 'Supa Dupa Fly' At 25: Missy Elliott Is Still Inspired By Her Debut Record
Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott holds up her platinum sales award for 'Supa Dupa Fly' in 1997.

PHOTO: Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives

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Revisiting 'Supa Dupa Fly' At 25: Missy Elliott Is Still Inspired By Her Debut Record

"We had no clue that it would be game changing," Missy Elliott tells GRAMMY.com of her groundbreaking debut record, 'Supa Dupa Fly.'

GRAMMYs/Jun 1, 2022 - 10:00 am

Missy Elliott’s debut album Supa Dupa Fly was released on July 15, 1997, and remains in the multiple GRAMMY-winning artist’s heavy listening rotation. Her forward-thinking gift for writing, rapping and singing memorable songs with gospel-informed soul hooks and time signature-shattering beats ushered in the 2000s early and sent everyone scrambling to copy the new style.

"A lot of times, when I need some inspiration now, I listen to it," Elliott tells GRAMMY.com in a rare interview. "To be honest, I listen to it because I feel like we were in such a vulnerable place and we didn’t have any kind of expectations, so we just did what felt good to us."

The "we" is Elliott and her friend Tim "Timbaland" Mosley, who served as her co-executive producer and close musical collaborator on Supa Dupa Fly. Together, they served up a perfectly arranged, cohesive collection of songs and interludes that still shows artists around the world how to think outside the box musically. They not only influenced hip-hop and R&B acts, but Southern chopped and screwed DJs, house music producers, drum & bass experimentalists, and much more.

"So I always try to go back to that space," Elliott says, "because once you become successful at something then the expectations become higher and you start to think more. When we did that album, there wasn’t really much thought there …. We really just came out with a sound that we had been doing for some time, but we had no clue that it would be game changing, that we would change the cadence — the sound of what was happening at that time. No clue!"

Remarkably, this hit album — which generated four singles and compelling music videos for "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," "Sock It To Me," "Beep Me 911" and "Hit Em Wit Da Hee" — was written and recorded in days, and was nominated for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance at the 40th GRAMMY Awards.

"There have been times I’ve had ideas ahead," she shares, "but for this particular album, it was most definitely right on the spot. It took us two weeks to record this album and it was because, at the time, I didn’t want to be an artist."

Elliott had just been in an R&B group called Sista that was signed to Elektra Entertainment Group under a record label headed up by Jodeci founder and producer DeVante Swing. Sista recorded an album, but it wasn’t released after Swing parted ways with Elektra.

The stalled experience made Elliott want to focus on songwriting and developing other artists instead of being in the spotlight. Ultimately, she inked  a business deal with Elektra executive Sylvia Rhone that included a solo recording contract as well as her own record label.

"A lot of people wanted to sign me; there was a bidding war," Elliott explains. "Every label out there was trying to get me to sign to them and I wanted to have a record label instead of being an artist. When I took a meeting with Sylvia Rhone about having a record label she said, ‘I’ll give you a label if you give me an album.’ So we went in and I was like, ‘Tim, let’s go in here and do this album real quick so I can get started on my label.’"

Rhone gave Elliott no guidance other than to just be herself in the studio, and she deferred to Elliott’s artistic decisions — a record business rarity both then and now. 

"She had an eye," Elliott says of Rhone. "She is a creator, a visionary, so she saw it." Just two months after it was released, Supa Dupa Fly brought Elliott’s new record label The Goldmind, Inc. its first certified Platinum album.

The album’s lead single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" and the unforgettable accompanying video were released two months before the album dropped, and undoubtedly helped to propel album sales. Most of the album isn’t built around samples, but "The Rain" features a hook created by sampling a song that came out in 1973, when Elliott was just 2 years old: Ann Peebles’ "I Can’t Stand The Rain."

Peebles’ song features sounds that evoke water droplets, which were created by overdubbing notes played on an electric timbale, then a new instrument on the scene. "I Can’t Stand The Rain" was later covered by a disco group called Eruption, who took it to No. 1 in Belgium and Australia in 1978, and Tina Turner, who included it on her 1984 smash album Private Dancer.

"Ann Peebles is iconic," Elliott says. "That sample in itself was a big contributor to that record. I got a chance to take a picture and meet her, and of course she loved it and I love her. Even when you listen to the original version, there is a nostalgia about it. And that’s what made us gravitate to that record anyway, because it had a hypnotic feel to it.

"I don’t know where Ann Peebles lives, so I wouldn't say we go to Six Flags every other weekend," Elliott says when asked if the two stay in touch. "But she was most definitely so sweet when I met her and I am humbly grateful that she allowed us to use that record. I’m quite sure that if we ran into each other again there would always be love — and shoot, if she wanted to go to Six Flags, we could go to Six Flags! She is very, very sweet."

The album features some significant guest stars, including the late star Aaliyah, a beloved protege of Timbaland’s and Elliott’s, who duets on "Best Friends"; Ginuwine, the singer of "Pony" fame; and rap star Busta Rhymes, then an Elektra labelmate at the time. There are also appearances by singer Nicole Wray, the first artist signed to Goldmind; and Magoo, a rapper and friend from Elliott's Virginia hometown Virginia friend of the executive producers.

Elliott recognizes the staying power of the song and the imagery she created in the video for "The Rain." Her inflated and oversized black suit, which brilliantly pokes fun at beauty standards, is regularly and lovingly parodied by fans in YouTube and TikTok videos.

"'The Rain' was such nostalgia, I think about it a lot," Elliott reflects. "When I see pictures, it’s like the beginning of such a legacy. I just posted something the other day — people are still grabbing Glad trash bags, mimicking that video."

"The Rain" video is so enduring, that it’s worth reminding that three other incredible videos came from Supa Dupa Fly. Elliott (in a space suit emblazoned with the Gmail logo) and Da Brat orbit outer space in a high-tech anime fantasy filmed for "Sock It To Me." She’s a technicolor princess in "Beep Me 911" (which features the Las Vegas R&B group 702), and effortlessly channels Michael Jackson’s "Smooth Criminal" era in "Hit Em Wit Da Hee," a collaboration with Lil’ Kim.

"Yeah, I was everywhere!" Elliott says of those groundbreaking and large-scale videos, which came with six-figure price tags. "That’s the fun thing about it: I feel like I came up in the era of experimenting. The '80s were really experimental. The '90s were really the piggyback off of that, so it allowed the '90s artists to be experimental. That’s the greatness about the videos that I did: they take you on a ride. You feel like you’re in those places in each video."

Supa Dupa Fly and those accompanying music videos earned Elliott some very big fans.

"Janet [Jackson], Whitney [Houston] — so many of those legends, I was like, ‘Wow, did I arrive?’" Elliott remembers. "I remember I had Whitney sing on the phone because I couldn’t believe it was her. You just didn't get a call from Janet and Mike [Jackson] … so I answered the phone and she was like, [uses quiet voice] ‘Hi, it’s Janet,’ and I’m like, ‘Stop playing on my phone!’ I’m thinking it’s one of my friends and I hung up and then my manager called me and said, ‘Hey, Janet is going to be calling you.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, why didn't you tell me? I just hung up on her!’ So people like that most definitely enjoyed the album."

The success of Supa Dupa Fly was additionally resonant for Elliott, who had wanted to be behind the scene. 

"I felt like months before, I didn’t want to be an artist and now I’m rethinking it because I was like, ‘Wow, this is fun! Y’all really like it?’" Elliott remembers. "[Supa Dupa Fly] allowed me to work with a lot of different artists and the thing was, they appreciated the fresh new sound that hadn’t been heard."

"Missy always wanted to be up there," her mother confessed to the New Yorker in 1997. "As a little girl, she would ask me to bring home stamps, for all these letters she was writing. The letters would be returned, and I’d see that she’d written to Diana Ross, and whatnot."

25 years on, Elliott — firmly up there — hopes to celebrate this special Silver anniversary of Supa Dupa Fly in a major way.

"I think I’m going to have a big party and just celebrate, because it is a big mark in my career," she says. "That was the beginning and I do remember it like it was yesterday; I do remember going in the studio and not knowing. I didn't think about what 25 years would look like; I was living in the moment. Now, I feel like it’s time.

"In 2022, I’m able to reminisce and enjoy that space," she adds. "I feel like that a lot of times. There were a lot of big moments in my career — we didn’t come up in the social media world, we didn’t start that way, so a lot of it was just living in the moment. Now, I get a chance to look back and appreciate it and be like, 'Wow, that was a game changing time,' enjoy it and smell the flowers."

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Will Smith Dedicate His 1999 Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY To His Son

Will Smith at the 1999 GRAMMYs

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Will Smith Dedicate His 1999 Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY To His Son

In his acceptance speech, he offers thanks to his family and "the jiggiest wife in the world, Jada Pinkett Smith"

GRAMMYs/Sep 25, 2020 - 11:17 pm

Today, Sept. 25, we celebrate the birthday of the coolest dad—who else? Will Smith! For the latest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we revisit the Fresh Prince's 1999 GRAMMY win for Best Rap Solo Performance for "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It."

In the below video, watch rappers Missy Elliott—donning white leather—and Foxy Brown present the GRAMMY to a stoked Smith, who also opted for an all-leather look. In his acceptance speech, he offers thanks to his family and "the jiggiest wife in the world, Jada Pinkett Smith." He dedicates the award to his eldest son, Trey Smith, joking that Trey's teacher said he (then just six years old) could improve his rhyming skills.

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The classic '90s track is from his 1997 debut studio album, Big Willie Style, which also features "Miami" and 1998 GRAMMY winner "Men In Black," from the film of the same name. The "Está Rico" rapper has won four GRAMMYs to date, earning his first back in 1989 GRAMMYs for "Parents Just Don't Understand," when he was 20 years old.

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ReImagined At Home: Kidd Kenn's "Old Town Road" Cover Tips Its Cowboy Hat To Lil Nas X's Country Trap Classic
Kidd Kenn

Photo: Courtesy of Kidd Kenn

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ReImagined At Home: Kidd Kenn's "Old Town Road" Cover Tips Its Cowboy Hat To Lil Nas X's Country Trap Classic

Kidd Kenn gives Lil Nas X's breakout hit "Old Town Road" a glam update by adding some of his own signature flair.

GRAMMYs/Aug 24, 2022 - 05:00 pm

Before Lil Nas X ruffled feathers by (literally) dancing with the devil in 2021, he first caused controversy with "Old Town Road." Labeled "country trap," the song sparked a fierce debate on the definition of the country genre. Yet, its instantly memorable hook — and cinematic music video — helped launch Lil Nas X into pop superstardom.

In this episode of ReImagined at Home, the song gets a fresh look from Kidd Kenn, an enigmatic, 18-year-old rapper from Chicago who shares Lil Nas X's penchant for eye-catching, forward-thinking imagery. Kenn delivers his version of "Old Town Road" while lounging in a wicker chair, seated in a light-filled room with walls decorated with book pages and a lush backdrop of vines and flowers. 

The performance lends a glamorous, feminine touch to the song, like when Kenn sings into a vanity mirror. But sonically, his interpretation is fairly faithful to the original "Old Town Road," layering smooth-as-honey vocals against rap lyrics and a sizzling trap beat.

Both Lil Nas X and Kidd Kenn broke into the scene as teens. Though the former artist is only 23 today, he's an inspiration to many in his genre, Kenn included: Nas X came out as gay early on — a fairly rare occurrence in the rap genre — and Kenn has been out since fans first got to know him.

"People in my community [are] building stuff in this game and it shows from what everybody is doing that [success] is going to happen. We're making room. We're here," Kenn commented to Red Bull, acknowledging Lil Nas X as well as Tyler, the Creator for helping destigmatize queer stories in hip hop. 

Press play on the video above to watch Kenn's interpretation of this modern-day classic, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of ReImagined at Home. 

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Queen Latifah Inducts Missy Elliott Into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Lizzo Performs

Missy Elliott

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of FameMissy Elliott

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Queen Latifah Inducts Missy Elliott Into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Lizzo Performs

The GRAMMY-winning hip-hop icon, who became the first female rapper given the honor, gave an inspiring speech: "Don't give up, because I'm standing here. And this is big for hip-hop, too"

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2019 - 10:10 pm

Last November, GRAMMY winner hip-hop mainstay Missy Elliott made headlines as the first-ever female rapper nominated for the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Last night, the all-around icon made history as she joined the 2019 class of inductees. She is just the third-ever rapper inducted, with GRAMMY winners JAY-Z and Jermaine Dupri preceding, becoming the first in 2017 and second in 2018, respectively.

Fellow GRAMMY-winning hip-hop heavyweight Queen Latifah presented Elliott with the award—and some loving words—during the ceremony held in New York. The evening was filled with a powerful energy, thanks to even more mega queens honoring Elliott, including the one and only Michelle Obama and rising rap goddess Lizzo.

"Missy, I want to thank you for all of your trailblazing ways," Obama said in the video message shared during the event, which Elliott also Tweeted out. "Thank you not for just sharing your gift with the world, but for being an advocate for so many people out there, especially young girls who are still figuring out how to make their voices heard."

Related: 'Da Real World' At 20: Missy Elliott Champions Women, Hip-Hop Rookies, And, Most Of All—Herself

Lizzo performed Elliott's classic 1997 mega-bop "Sock It 2 Me" while rocking an O.G.-Missy finger-wave hairstyle. GRAMMY-nominated rapper Da Brat joined her to hit her original bars on the Supa Dupa Fly track. As Lizzo strutted onto the stage, she shouted-out her idol:

"Missy, I want to thank you for inspiring young black girls like me to chase their dreams. I love you so much, I wouldn't be here without you. This is for you." Earlier this year, Lizzo got an assist from Elliott on her own fire track "Tempo."

Of course, Elliott had her own powerful words to add, offering gratitude for the honor. "I cry because it's a lot to take in. I'm thankful, humbled. I'm grateful to be up here with so many geniuses in this room, I've met so many people that I looked up to, and still look up to, as songwriters and producers," she said during her acceptance speech, which you can watch a clip of, along with part of Lizzo's performance, in the above video.

She continued: "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."

In addition to all the amazing songs she's penned for herself, Missy's also written songs for an impressive list of artists. As ABC News points out, that list includes major music players like Aaliyah, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande and many others.

The 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame class of inductees, who became eligible after putting in at least 20 years of hit-writing, also included GRAMMY-nominated singer Yusuf/Cat Stevens and GRAMMY-winning folk legend John Prine.

Jack Tempchin, a writer for the Eagles and GRAMMY winner Dallas Austin, a co-writer and producer behind many of TLC and other artists' hits, were also inducted last night. GRAMMY winner Justin Timberlake and GRAMMY-nominated pop star Halsey were honored with other awards during the ceremony, receiving the Contemporary Icon Award and Hal David Starlight Award, for "gifted" young songwriters, respectively.

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Missy Elliott Is Ready To Get The World Dancing Again

Missy Elliott

Photo: Josh Brasted/FilmMagic/Getty Images

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Missy Elliott Is Ready To Get The World Dancing Again

The hip-hop legend recently shared she is working on a new album dropping next year, 14 years after her last LP, 'The Cookbook.' What can we expect?

GRAMMYs/Oct 10, 2018 - 04:34 am

The GRAMMY-winning superstar Missy Elliott has been an influential powerhouse for years, making a name for herself starting with her successful debut album Supa Dupa Fly in 1997, featuring her classic jam "Sock It 2 Me." Since then she released five more studio albums and countless hit singles and collabs, although her last LP was 2005's The Cookbook. She has released some juicy, one-off singles and has been on some hot features over the past 13 years, but the world is ready for more Missy. Luckily, she is ready to give the world what it wants, teasing a 2019 LP in a recent social media post. What can we expect?

The rap pioneer recently took to Twitter to announce that she's ready to "get y'all aes dancing again," hinting she'll have new music for us in 2019. The tweet featured a clip of a new unreleased track of hers called "Cool Off," which sounds like it will be a dancefloor-ready banger. Five days before that post, in another tweet, she touched on why it's been so long since she's put out an album. "For so long I was hesitant to put out music in fear no one would get it because people said music has changed & my sound been so different," she shares. "But now I'm like hey, bump it make music that feels good to me, let me get y’all aes dancing again."

We are ready, Missy. Ready for whatever new jams you have been cooking up. She raps on the sneak peek of "Cool Off, "Missy in this b*h/doing st you ain't ever seen." I think we're ready to see it, but for now we will have to hope for whatever magic the hip-hop queen has been preparing for us.

We hope her and longtime friend and collaborator Timbaland have been spending at least some time in the studio together so that he can add his magic, futuristic touch through producing at least a few songs on her upcoming album. The list of Elliott's Timbaland-produced classics is nearly endless, including "Sock It 2 Me" and "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" from her debut Supa Dupa Fly, "One Minute Man" and "Get Ur Freak On" from Miss E…So Addictive and "Work It" and "Gossip Folks" from Under Construction. It is hard to deny how amazing and dynamic the music they put out together is, with his forward thinking production bringing her sound to the next level every time.

Timbaland was the lead producer on all of her studio albums other than her sixth, which he played a smaller role on, and they were working on her seventh album set to release in 2008, along with Pharrell and others on production, until, after delays, the album was never released. Pharrell and Elliott eventually released two singles in 2012 "9th Inning" and "Triple Threat," both of which featured classic slow-jam/future-sound Timbaland beats along with his vocals.

Two years later, in 2015, Elliott teamed up with Pharrell to release the viral hit "WTF (Where They From)," a booty-bouncing, highly danceable track featuring the producer's catchy, joyful beats, as well as some verses from him as well. We can only hope and pray Elliott's latest studio sessions have and will include both GRAMMY-winning mastermind producers to keep lifting her amazing flow and bold presence to the next level with joyous, future-ready beats.

Elliott has always confidently pushed the envelope and set the tone for what it means to be a female hip-hop artist in the male-dominated industry. There is no doubt that she will keep bringing her unique brand of sexy, empowered, independent female to the table in her new music. This year she has already given us a taste of that on the remix of Ciara's girl power track "Level Up." The two celebrate their greatness as women, recognizing they won't settle for less than they deserve, with Elliott confidently rapping, "Original, no klepto'/ Got a new flow, got a new glow./Level up, I'm beautiful/My a, bounce like a yo-yo."

The remix of the GRAMMY-winning R&B star's recent single reunites the pair, along with Fatman Scoop, the three of whom collabed on "Lose Control," the biggest—and still classic dance-inducing jam—single from Elliott's The Cookbook. Elliott is also featured on "borderline," a bouncy, shiny Pharrell-produced song on Ariana Grande's Sweetener, released this August.

We can only hope these recent features point to some heavy doses of female-empowerment, along with some unexpected yet heavy-hitting, female-dominated collabs on Elliott's 2019 album. The cherry on top that would tie it all together would have to be provided by Timbaland and Pharrell's powerhouse production skills. We will wait patiently and practice our dance moves until then.

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