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Best Missy Elliott Songs: 10 Hip-Hop Classics To Get Ur Freak On To
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List & Guides

Best Missy Elliott Songs: 10 Hip-Hop Classics To Get Ur Freak On To

Collapsing genres and showcasing an absurdist humour, the best Missy Elliott songs changed the game for hip-hop and pop music.

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When Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott entered the public consciousness, it was through the distorted lens of a fish-eye camera. The video for her first solo single, The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) (released in 1997), featured Elliott wearing an inflatable leather suit while performing a series of jerky, arrhythmic dance moves. It was as though she were glitched time-lapse photography, collapsing together the histories of soul, funk, hip-hop and pop music, while scratching and popping genre conventions – all in a way that set the standard for the best Missy Elliott songs to follow.

During her most creatively fertile period – between 1997 and 2003 – it was near-impossible to predict what Elliott would do next. She was as hardcore as any underground rapper; she was a pop behemoth; she was a club queen; she was performance art. The best Missy Elliott songs capture her vast scope and her artistic importance. “Sometimes you gotta take a chance,” Elliott said in 2021. “I never felt like I fit in, period. I don’t think there was a lane for the music that we did.”

Listen to the best of Missy Elliott here, and check out the best Missy Elliott songs, below.

10: Pass That Dutch (from ‘This Is Not A Test!’, 2003)

The lead single from Elliott’s fifth album, This Is Not A Test!, Pass That Dutch is a relentless rhythmic assault, driven by ultra-disciplined handclaps and Elliott’s staccato rap flow. However, while the song’s core is pure funk glory for clubs, its promo video bookends it with two different moods. As a prelude, Elliott sits writing, musing on grief (accompanied by a picture of Aaliyah, the R&B singer and a close friend of Elliott, who died in a plane crash in 2001). She veers between pride, paranoia and anxiety in this opening verse. As for the video’s epilogue, well that’s still to come in this list of the best Missy Elliott songs…

9: Busta Rhyme (featuring Eminem) (from ‘Da Real World’, 1999)

“He hadn’t even came out with My Name Is yet,” Missy Elliott said in 1999, of asking Eminem to guest on Busa Rhyme, the key collaboration on her second album, Da Real World. “I heard something of his and instantly told Tim[baland, Elliott’s producer and collaborator], ‘I need this guy on my album.’ Immediately when I heard him rap, I thought, He’s special.” She reached out to Dr Dre, and Eminem came on board. Busa Rhyme is a disjointed, Frankenstein’s monster of a track – and is all the better for it. Slim Shady’s heart-in-mouth violent misogyny, Missy’s frowning swagger (because “somebody done pissed her off this time”); it’s all there, two polar opposites battling for their lives on one classic track.

8: I’m Better (with Lamb) (standalone single, 2017)

In 2014, Missy Elliott spoke of her sparse release schedule since 2005’s The Cookbook. “When I create something, it’s gotta be special and it can’t just be to throw something out there because I feel like I’m Missy,” she said. “I gotta feel like what I’m giving the fans is 100 per cent and that it’s game-changing. I don’t just throw out microwave records… When you are creating to the magnitude that I try to create, your brain is like a computer sometimes. It needs to refresh.” Though Missy Elliott hasn’t released a full-length album since The Cookbook, she has given us several features, an EP (2019’s Iconology) and the occasional single. I’m Better is one of the best Missy Elliott songs of this period – trap-inflected, confident, intimate. “I met Lamb maybe eight years ago,” Elliott said in 2017 of this track. “He always had something that was different. It was hard to even think that I could run into somebody [with a] mind that could think like mine – and his beats were really dirty.”

7: Lose Control (featuring Ciara and Fatman Scoop) (from ‘The Cookbook’, 2005)

“The only person who can pull something off with me [on this track] is Ciara, because it’s a record with speed,” Elliott said at the time of Lose Control’s release. Speed, indeed: the sound of electro, courtesy of the Cybotron and Hot Streak samples, mashing with Fatman Scoop’s trademark sergeant-major holler and Missy’s hustling unpredictability. Such a glorious aural scattergun needed Ciara’s grounding presence. It’s a track straining at the limits of its own manic energy. Taken from Elliott’s sixth album, The Cookbook, so named because “no two records are going to sound alike; each record has its own spices and herbs”.

6: Hit Em Wit Da Hee (featuring Lil’ Kim) (from ‘Supa Dupa Fly’, 1997)

As two of the best female rappers of all time, Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim[link to best Lil Kim songs when live – 11 July] – whose styles, personae and flow are worlds apart – have consistently collaborated to devastating effect. Missy guested on Kim’s celebratory Ladies Night Remix of Not Tonight, a standout cut from Kim’s debut album, Hard Core; the pair were part of the chartbusting Lady Marmalade cover recorded for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! soundtrack; and both guested on Keyshia Cole’s 2007 US smash Let It Go. But Hit EM Wit Da Hee, from Elliott’s game-changing debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, is the pick of them all. Here, Missy and Kim are fresh, hungry and bristling with braggadocio: it’s the track that cements both as two of the sharpest rappers of 1997.

5: Wake Up (featuring Jay-Z) (from ‘This Is Not A Test!’, 2003)

Included as a B-side to some pressings of Pass That Dutch (and with a portion appended to that single’s video), Wake Up is its dark opposite: a thunderous, almost metal-like rap. Elliott and Jay-Z muse on Black identity, with Missy pushing back on the overwhelming materialistic and gun cultures engulfing hip-hop in the early 2000s. “If you don’t got a gun/It’s alright” she raps on a track that’s – ironically – nothing less than a call-to-arms to fight for the future of hip-hop.

4: Get Ur Freak On (from ‘Miss E… So Addictive’, 2001)

Missy Elliott at her most international, Get Ur Freak On is a riot of hip-hop and bhangra, alongside Japanese lyrics and samples from the German New Age artist Karunesh. Released as the lead single from Elliott’s third album, Miss E… So Addictive, it’s an absolute dancefloor monster that still stands as one of the best 2000s songs[https://www.thisisdig.com/feature/best-2000s-songs/]. “That’s what people like to see about Missy Elliott, something different,” she said, speaking from the set of the song’s video, with an enormous grin on her face. “The good thing about this Get Ur Freak On record is everybody love it, it’s a party record, it’ll stick in your head.”

3: She’s A Bitch (from ‘Da Real World’, 1999)

In 1999, the word “bitch” was routinely hurled at women: those who were uninterested in others’ opinions, those who resisted pressure to look or act a certain way, those who confronted sexism through their words and actions. “You don’t hear people call males ‘bitches’,” Elliott said in 1999. “But I’ve heard that people talk that way about Chaka Khan. And Aretha Franklin.” Elliott reclaimed this word as a badge of honour: a woman with “more cheese” who rolls up her sleeves and gets shit done. She’s A Bitch was the first single from Elliott’s, second album, Da Real World, and it blazed with passion. “Music is a male-dominated field,” Elliott said, explaining her use of the word. “Women are not always taken as seriously as we should be, so sometimes we have to put our foot down. To other people that may come across as being a bitch, but it’s just knowing what we want and being confident.”

2: The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) (from ‘Supa Dupa Fly’, 1997)

Because Missy Elliott had been part of the R&B group Fayze (later called Sista) for many years, and had written for and produced other artists, including Aaliyah and Jodeci, she was already incredibly seasoned by the time she released her official debut single. The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) is therefore an unusually complete and confident track for a first salvo. It brilliantly utilises I Can’t Stand The Rain, by soul singer Ann Peebles. “Ann Peebles is iconic,” Elliott said in 2022. “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.”

Moreover, Elliott’s lyrics on this are absolutely classic. “Beep beep, who got the keys to the jeep? Vroooooooom” is a line signalling that this was a woman who loved absurdity, situating her alongside brilliant musical eccentrics such as George Clinton, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Mark E Smith. It was an early sign that the best Missy Elliott songs would resist rap cliches, and Elliott would soon prove (again and again) that she was one of the most original writers in hip-hop history.

1: Work It (from ‘Under Construction’, 2002)

Inspired by hip-hop’s Golden Age – even taking in disco, with its sample of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass – Work It is not only one of the best Missy Elliott songs, but also one of the most joyous songs of the 21st century. “I had a lot of fun making [the Under Construction album] because I’m from the old school of hip-hop, with Salt-N-Pepa, Rakim, EPMD, LL [Cool J], all of them,” Elliott said in 2002. “Music back then, to me, was fun, warm, it was all about dancing, it was all about knowing every word to the record.”

Work It is definitely fun, warm and danceable, but it challenges you to know every word to the record. Alongside memorable lines such as “Don’t I look like a Halle Berry poster?”, Elliott mixes up reversed lyrics, slang (memorably showcasing “badonkadonk”, meaning “jiggling buttocks”), and the jokey use of an elephant trumpeting to insinuate whatever your own dirty mind might think. It is the most perfect Missy Elliott track, combining all the elements that make her a goddess in flesh form: stupendous wordplay, heart, deep groove and just plain weirdness. And if that wasn’t enough, the video features a Prince lookalike, car-swallowing, a tiny Missy dunce in the corner and an invasion of bees. All hail Misdemeanor when she’s on the M-I-C.

Find out where Missy Elliott ranks among the best female rappers of all time.

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