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…