Just days before Missy Elliott is set to receive the 2019 Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Award, she released a five-song short album Iconology and visual for the song “Throw It Back,” — reminding us all why we stan her unwavering authenticity as an artist. The visual for her latest song, features icon-in-the-making, Teyana Taylor and brilliantly captures the essence of Missy that we have adored since the late 90s.
With a 14-year gap between dropping this new music and her last album, The Cookbook, Missy has stayed consistent in her celebration of Black art and talent throughout her career. Her deliberate homage to Black women and the intermixing of old-school hip-hop land Missy in an unapologetic league of everlasting salute to the culture. Reaching the epitome of the definition of living icon status, she has procured a table in the evolution of the industry all while serving the same feel-good dance music she and super-producer Timbaland are known for.
In a culture that is shaped around stealing from Black culture for profit, Missy has always remained true through her intentionality of shaping how the mainstream sees Blackness. In the video “Throw It Back” there are many moments of nostalgia that give a nod to the prioritization of the beauty and brilliance of Black artistry.
The video opens up with a young Missy-resembling girl being pushed down and called a “freak”. It introduces the audience to the idea that young Black girls are often chastised and ridiculed for exhibiting out-of-the-box thinking and behavior — something that Missy has always represented. She has consistently been a merge of femininity, daringness, and confidence wrapped within an identity that is nonlinear and nonconformist.
Scenes painted with colorful choices of wardrobe and makeup dispels the idea that brown-skinned girls are unattractive and shouldn’t stand out or be bold. Teeth decorated with gold partial-grills, colorful cheerleading poms-poms that are actually Afros, long nails, name-plated knuckle rings, bandanas, and braids for days sidestep the stigma of these symbols having been considered “ghetto” to the mainstream culture until appropriated by non-Black people.
In one scene, Missy is rapping while holding her hair in the midst of using her braids as rope for two games of double-dutch. Double-dutch is a two-jump-rope game that is almost an unspoken rite of passage for Black girls growing up. It is indeed a “throw it back” moment for those of us who would play double-dutch on the side of basketball courts, in the middle of the streets, or just about anywhere with flat ground.
Missy also takes us into the center of Black, urban neighborhoods — like Portsmouth, VA where Missy is from — while rapping on a porch next to housing with barred windows. The parallel of this, showing the authenticity of how rap began in its early stages before it became about money, cars, clothes, and monetization. It factors in the humble beginnings that rap was an art form produced by people who did not have much but a message to share about who they were, where they were from, and the day-to-day life they had to try and navigate as marginalized people.
It also provides the message that just as you can come from what others may consider as nothing, it doesn’t mean that you cannot shoot for the moon. The overall pun of Missy being displayed on the moon planting a flag that says “Me” gives credence to the MTV moon man, yet also shows just how much you can win by being authentically yourself and never compromising who you are.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue