17 visuals that prove Missy Elliott invented music videos

Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott
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It’s almost a cliché to say that the name Missy Elliott is synonymous with music videos at this point. Yet, calling it a cliché would minimize the outsized impact she has had on all modern rap videos. From 1997 forward, Missy has been the queen of the choreographed screen. Before her, while there was dancing in videos, it was never at her tier of artistic expression. They didn’t hold the stretch of her creativity, which ranged from the silly and bubbly to the serpentine and avant-garde. 

Missy had core collaborators on these visuals, mainly Hype Williams and Dave Meyers, who are geniuses in their own right. That said, there’s a reason why the rest of their videos don’t hold that same amount of quirkiness or bombastic quality. From Kung Fu in the sewer to breakdancing on spooky deserted playgrounds and fisheye lenses focused on ballooned trash bag suits, Missy Elliott not only invigorated the modern music video, she put her thang down, flipped it and reversed it. Here’s a list of proof.

1. The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

The outfits alone in this video were beyond iconic, but the underappreciated element was the gloss and sheen of the aesthetic that Hype and Missy concocted to uplift her glistening braggadocio. The choreography juxtaposed the goofy with the intricate, which somehow made her look even cooler than she already was. 

Evoking a quintessential body empowerment symbol in the trash bag, and then coupling it with moving imagery like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was a stunning combination. This video marked the beginning of Missy’s takeover that wouldn’t let up for at least a decade.

2. All N My Grill feat. Big Boi

This video is an underrated Hype and Missy collaboration that had a sleek and consistent energy and is filled with moments of sheer hilarity. The core of the video exists within the confines of what appears to be the financial district in NYC in the middle of rush hour. There’s shots of Missy in cars stuck in a traffic jam with multiple men as she sings the lyrics at them in an accusatory manner. Then suddenly there’s a sidewalk shot — that repeats throughout the video a few times — of Missy with one of the men shirtless in the rain. It added a spontaneous feel among the diverse visuals produced in the video.

Vibrant sequences of quick choreography with business people in yellow raincoats added a pop of color, which was amplified when OutKast’s Big Boi entered in a bright red jean outfit with gold framed glasses.

3. Hit ‘Em Wit Da Hee feat. Lil Kim

The lone Paul Hunter-directed entry on this list is inventively gothic. A crew of dancers wearing oversized pinstripe suits glided into a spooky castle setting with Missy at the helm. But don’t worry, that’s not the only look. Early on in the video, Missy wore full knight garb atop a metal fire breathing horse. 

Eventually Missy levitated as if singing the “Hit ’em with the hee” line literally lifted her from the ground. Then, the video shifted to what felt like mystical haunted woods with Timbaland in a Harry Potter dementor-like fit. This was a classic Missy example of a seemingly random blend of visual ideas thrown on the canvas that have nothing to do with the song, yet it completely worked.

4. Sock It 2 Me feat. Da Brat

One of the single most inventive music videos ever employed the idea of space robots. There was an obvious connection between the song’s title and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot toys. Missy and Hype ran with this as far as it could possibly go.

Traversing through what seemed like Mars, space portals and even purple underwater lairs, Missy and Lil Kim dodged evil robots like space cadets. Timbaland appeared like Einstein as if he were crafting either the world they existed in or their robotic makeup. 

5. Beep Me 911 feat. 702 and Magoo

Earle Sebastian and Missy did a one-time collaboration with this video, which shifted the puffer clothing Missy was introduced in on “The Rain” to a ’70s and ’80s colorful aesthetic. This video’s core was a barrage of robot-like dance moves that all hit in the sequences of the instrumental but were still felt in the moment. This demonstrated one of Missy’s choreographic superpowers.

Her facial expressions were particularly funny in this video. The icon always seemed like she was slightly exaggerating her weirdness and winking at the camera lens. It suggested that, even with all that went into these setups, the shooting days must have been so goofy and fun.

6. Hot Boyz

This was one of Missy’s most guttural and aggressive songs, and the video matched that energy. As Nas entered the visual draped in all yellow, the shimmery celebrity aesthetic was dripping. Then, Missy’s white and red leather surrounded by flashing lights cemented the scene.

There were flamethrowers everywhere to match the exciting danger of the men Missy was singing about. While this video is definitely a Missy classic, it also fit in the realm of a classic Hype Williams video with plenty of explosive glitz. Every once in a while, Missy had to show them she could stunt too.

7. She’s A B**ch 

There’s a real argument to be made for this being the best Missy video ever. The black and chrome mixed with the blue and white lighting presented the superstar at her most pristine. The way she entered the screen showed Missy filled with swagger.

The moment in the instrumental when the metallic dancers rise from the ocean on a platform forming the letter M is one of the most epic moments in music video history. Under stormy clouds as they bust out into the routine, no set of dancers has ever looked so dope.

8. Take Away feat. Ginuwine

This visual ode to the one and only Aaliyah was Missy’s most poignant. Following the release of her third album, Aaliyah tragically passed away in a plane crash immediately after she shot her own video for her hit single “Rock The Boat.” Thus, it was only right that Missy dedicated a visual of her own to her. 

As she stood amidst a digitalized cherry blossom garden and sang lyrics of love-filled appreciation, the depth was felt. As Aaliyah’s face appeared in the ponds beneath Missy and Ginuwine, it was hard not to think about how difficult this video must’ve been to shoot. 

9. Get Ur Freak On

If there was any video that defined the Dave Meyers and Missy era, this was it. This marked the shift from fisheye gaudiness to sharp cutting flexes. The dance moves became much more precise and less fluid, and the sets became much more cinematic and less dreamlike. 

The most striking transition was when it went from an underground sewer to an underworld forest with blue muddy demons. Amidst all that, Missy maintained her cool and looked as groovy as ever. But don’t worry, the humor was still alive and well as her head suddenly shifted from her body in an alien fashion. She let her freak flag fly.

10. One Minute Man feat. Ludacris

This was around the time when Missy’s Misdemeanor nickname became better known. The hints at prostitution in this video set in a fictional hotel are no coincidence. This song, encouraging a man to last long, had a backdrop of shimmery dancing bellboys and desk clerks with animal print hats.

This track was also the intro to the indelible chemistry of Missy and Luda. Both became known for kooky visuals and cartoonish presentations. Their styles go together seamlessly.

11. Gossip Folks feat. Ludacris

Another Missy and Luda classic, “Gossip Folks” was an underappreciated, top-tier hit from Missy’s catalog. From the choreography to the beat, this presentation was one of the most stank face-inducing. Not to mention, the track suits with fleece hats and visors were symbolic of the time and elevated in the most Missy way.

To not credit her at least a little bit with the popularity of the dance battle in the early 2000s would be unjust. The way it was presented in this visual with a nerds versus cool kids angle was timeless. Then, when Ludacris popped up strutting around the campus, he exuded every young boy’s dream to come back to school as a cool adult and mack on a teacher. 

12. Work It

Is there a more well-known Missy Elliott song or video? It’s safe to say that this hit is a necessity for any party playlist. This visual pulled from the early Missy era and brought it into the early 2000s. The bouncy Timbaland production clearly inspired a little nostalgia while also being forward pushing.

From the bee-swarmed DJ Missy, to the jean headband Missy, to the baby blue sweatsuit breakdance battle Missy, it’s hard to pick a favorite. This video also marked the beginning of the legend putting Alyson Stoner in her videos for this era, which would continue for a few more videos.

13. Pass That Dutch

This is the most unique video in Missy’s catalog. It opened with a sepia-toned tribute to those who passed, such as Aaliyah, 2Pac, Biggie, Big Pun, Jam Master Jay and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Then, it sharply transitioned to a corn field as the main track was blasted. This was one of the few actual Dave Meyers appearances in videos as he dragged Missy from an infected slew of zombies.

Then Missy became a scarecrow and then a black leather-clad leader of a dance crew. The video just never stopped shifting. There’s some cannibalism, a beauty pageant, UFOs, a band’s dance team, and eventually Missy switched the beat and became King Kong atop the Empire State Building. Why not?

14. Lose Control feat. Ciara and Fatman Scoop

If “Work It” was the opener of a Missy party DJ set, “Lose Control” would be the closer. The video was a barrage of nonstop energy from beginning to end. The initial blue hoodies juxtaposed the dark screen with choreography and transformed into a dust-kicking desert sequence that can only make you want to move while you watch.

Much like the Missy and Ludacris collaborations, she and Ciara had seamless chemistry. Only this time had much more to do with the dancing rather than cartoonish personalities. When Ciara entered the scene, you could feel how organic the crossover was.

15. Teary Eyed

Missy in a straight jacket immediately catches the eye in this lone Antti Jokinen entry on the list. The renowned creative’s grief and loss of self over the destruction of a relationship is potent and visible.

This video doesn’t quite qualify for the top tier of Missy visuals because it lacks some of her signature essence. That said, the exciting transition on the beat switch and the choreographed sequence of dancers in straitjackets made it more noteworthy.

16. I’m Really Hot

This was another breakaway for Missy from her main two directors and was also one of her other more narrative-based visuals. The Japanese film-influenced offering displayed a crew beef, which resulted in some pretty awesome dance battles. 

Much like the theme of the song, this video seemed centered around making Missy look cool. Having at least one of this type of video in her assortment feels only right. 

17. We Run This

This video seemed directly influenced by the film Drumline — even down to the colors in the outfits at the beginning. Yet it still maintained a classic Missy and Dave Meyers pizzazz. The visual moved into some really funny animation, particularly Missy as a stick figure propelled off one of the lyrics.

“My word is the word, and we came to serve” serves as a defining statement in this song that runs throughout all of her visuals. The thing that separates a Missy Elliott video from the rest is the energy and commitment. As she crumped in a Muhammad Ali-labeled sweatsuit in this visual, she exuded the auras of her legendary status.

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