Back in June 1997, the Hype Williams-directed video for Missy Elliott‘s first solo single, “I Can’t Stand the Rain” was released. The video showcased one of the most creative uses for a garbage bag that anyone had seen at that point. Elliott, within the middle part of video, sat in on top of a hill staring into space, and there were little digital quirks that would make her eyes and lips pop out. Of course, I was nowhere close to having a license at this point, but I could not count the many times I said the “beep beep, who got the keys to the jeep?” line.
Little did we know, this would begin a 19-year solo career that would challenge the boundaries of hip-hop and R&B music. Five Grammy awards and 30 million records sold are not feats that come easily. Just when the music industry thought they caught up, the sounds crafted by Elliott and Timbaland reset the bar to where music can go. When we thought she was just hip-hop, not only did she surpass that, but she also continued to be a role model to women in the music industry who both performed and wrote.
The definition of the MTV Vanguard Award is given to artists who have made a profound effect on the MTV culture, thus honoring an artist’s body of work. There are some amazing artists on the list – Michael Jackson (for whom it was named after initially), David Bowie, Duran Duran, Beyonce, and definitely not least (he’d be angry) Kanye West. I’m going to go ahead and give MTV a head start in getting the ceremonies ready for next year. Let’s give Missy Elliott the Vanguard Award for next year.
Honestly, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long to notice this omission. Not only does Elliott strive to make immaculate music, but she has the visuals to match. Take a look and listen to 2001’s “Get Your Freak On”. The song itself combines hip-hop, dance, and bhangra elements from India that was not heard in the mainstream at that time. Right down to the colors, fisheye close-ups’ and synchronized dance moves, Elliott’s videos were a narrative of her own in an era where music videos were still an event. There were no trailers to the actual video, but they enhanced the feeling for the song itself.
The 2016 iteration of the MTV VMAs was a bit all over the place. It seemed like producers were winging it on the fly at some points. We have about a year from now until the next VMAs to make the production for Missy Elliott’s Vanguard presentation to be the best it can be. You can even ask her to do multiple performances like Rihanna did this past year — we won’t mind at all.
There can be less awkward exchanges and forced jokes. Instead, let’s fill them with costume changes and the songs from Supa Dupa Fly. It will bring us back to our party playlist days were there were at least two Missy Elliott songs (at minimum) that had people mimicking either a dance move in a video or a stanza in the song.
We always push artists to be trailblazers — trendsetters even. If you need an artist who fits the definition of a vanguard, look no further than Portsmouth, Virginia’s very own Missy Elliott.
Featured Image Credit: Billboard