She's So...addicted: Q&A with Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott
Working with longtime producing partner Timbaland, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott changed hiphop with her 1997 debut Supa Dupa Fly. Missy, refusing to squeeze herself into the narrow confines of the female rap artist profile (sweet diva or tough slut, take your pick), created her own framework of stardom, where she could do and say and act and look exactly how she pleased.
In between writing and producing for acts as diverse as Ginuwine and Aaliyah, Missy managed to put out two records, bring her bawdy brand of feminism to the Lilith Fair lineup, and become the darling of fickle critics round the globe.
With her third full-length CD Miss E?So Addictive (Elektra/Gold Mind) Elliott and Timbaland have retooled the 70s "sex" album for the brand new millennium. Ecstasy, adulterous affairs and one-minute men are only some of the topics that fuel the cheerful salaciousness. With the eager help of everyone from Ludacris to Jay-Z to Eve, it seems Missy Elliott is gettin' her freak back on.
You write and produce all your own music with Timbaland. Tell me a little about how you two work in the studio.
With me and Timbaland it's been the same since day one. He creates a really simple beat and I'll start singing to it. I create the melody and he works around that. Once that's set I write the lyrics. The lyrics come from whatever the track makes me feel. It might be a dance track or a sexy track?it depends on what I'm hearing and feeling. The one thing is, we've grown since the first album. I wasn't stressed or anything on that album, partly because we had no competition from our own music, from a previous album. We staggered here and there on the second album, I was a lot more tense trying to get over those sophomore jitters, so we went back and forth, just trying to meet halfway. With this new album, I was really relaxed. I thought, "Let's just do what we do." So we had a lot of fun.
You've got a lot of guests on the new album. How do you decide who's going to appear on what song?
Well, basically, once we were done with the record, I listened to the songs and thought, "Redman and Method Man would sound hot on this, Eve would sound hot on this." The Eve track is a techno-rave type of track and I thought it would be cool to mix hiphop with a house beat. I always have Da Brat on my albums and Jay-Z and Ludacris were really supportive. I went to all the artists and made sure they felt good about the tracks they were doing.
What do look for in the acts that you produce?
I like it when artists have a direction themselves rather than just me giving them a direction, because nobody can really make a decision better than yourself when it comes to dealing with your style. Once you allow that, artists tend to grow. I like artists that come to me with an idea already of what they want to do. I try to tell the women I work with to know their business, too, not be naive, to get out there and take control of what they're doing. A lot of times you lose out if you're not into the business side, you wake up and realize you have no money, so you have to be headstrong. And as females we have to be strong and work hard. Females can do the same amount, the same things as any man. I'd like to see more females as the heads of companies, whether it's labels or companies in general, I'd like to see them striving for the top positions.
You've also got this great sense of female sexuality. This new album is really raunchy and straight-up. I think it helps dispel the myth that women aren't as voracious in their appetites as men. You seem to know what you want and you've ended up making this really sexy, really sexual album.
I wanted to make this album a sexy album. It was time for a sexy album. I thought, as far as lyrics, I felt like we had already touched the "love" records and the "I don't want no scrub" records, we already had the "give me my money" records. As females we went through a very tough time, but as I said, what happened to the sexy records? I wanted to make a record about getting it on! I wanted to come at it from a different angle. So many records are talking about the same thing. I wanted this record to stick out like a sore thumb, for people to go, "Whoa! What is that? Damn!"
Well, it's great, because at the same time you've got this really gorgeous gospel song on the album, too.
My mother is very religious and I grew up religious. A friend who has since passed on had asked me to do a gospel song, so that song is for them really. I'm Baptist and my mother kept me very strict. I don't get to church every Sunday now, but I'm a firm believer in God. I don't think I need to be in church every Sunday to have a personal relationship with Him. I believe that everything that I have, He's given me. I think that's important to remember and I'm thankful for my mother raising me that way because I think that keeps me solid. It keeps me from going wild out here in this business, because it's easy to get caught up in a lot of things.
Where do you think hiphop is headed?
We're headed in the right direction. I do say I believe that once people found out the samples they were using may take 80 to 90 percent of their publishing money, they started having to be creative! People started to have to rely on their own beats, their own sound. Because then they know that when the check comes, it comes to them. There was a time when hiphop was very stuck. But now people are starting to kick their own beats and every once in a while you get people like Jill Scott to switch up the game. So it's a good time, really. I like to think we are at a place where things are starting to change again. And change is always good.
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