Missy Elliott’s comeback has been a thing of beauty. There are not many artists who are so wildly creative, and her absence only made us all realized how much we really need artists like Missy. It all started with her Super Bowl performance, but her “WTF” video was all the confirmation we needed: Missy Elliott is back.
She spoke with i-D about how it all came together, and how Pharrell was an essential part of the process.
On the initial conversations with Pharrell:
“Well, Pharrell hit me. He had hit me before the Super Bowl, we had performed at the BET awards [in 2014], and after the Superbowl, he hit me up like, ‘Yo, what are you doing?’ I was basically in the house cleaning! I had gone back to my normal life. I was in the house vacuuming, walking my dogs—after the Super Bowl, I’m just acting normal. He said, ‘I’m not trying to push you, but people miss you. Do you see what happened out there? Have you seen the charts’? I think I was still in shock. It still hadn’t registered. He was like, ‘I want to get in the studio with you.’ Who turns down Pharrell?
He flew me to LA and he put me up and we got in the studio and he said, ‘Yo! I got this crazy beat’. You know, Pharrell, he’s very zen, very yoga, he’s such a sweetheart. But this time, he was straight from the hood, like, ‘Yo, I got this crazy record for you, I already wrote my rap, I gotta get your bars now.’ So he played it and once he played it, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ He said, ‘I know you gon’ kill it.’ I said, ‘Well, let me take it home and live with it.’ When something is so hot, I don’t want to just jump on it right away, I want to take it home and make sure I give it my best shot. He said, ‘Listen, just remember who you are. You’ve always been fun and animated and you have always made people want to dance. Look in the mirror so you can know who you are. It’s time. It’s your time.’ That’s how it happened. Once we did the record, I knew it was time to shoot a video.
On doubting herself and where she fits in:
“It was a time where I felt like, ‘Do I still have it?’ Especially when you see a whole new slew, a whole new generation of kids, come through and the music is not like how it was. I felt like, ‘How do I fit in?’ I’m battling. But then I never fit in! The whole time, I’ve never fit in! But it was still that battle. Do people still want to hear something creative and risky at this point? People might not be accepting of your music. So I battled that and I thank god for somebody like Pharrell who stayed in my ear. For him, at that time, ‘Happy’ was everywhere, he didn’t have to share anything with me. He said to me, ‘You call me any time you feel like that, because I have went through that same thing in my life and I want to make sure I pull you up. I’ve been there and I know what that feels like.’”
And on Kanye West:
“What I love about Kanye is that he doesn’t fit the mold either. He does what he feels. People might look at him like, ‘Kanye at it again’, but I can respect the fact and I can tell when he does his music it’s not ‘I’m doing what’s hot right now.’ That’s what I felt in the studio. So I can appreciate artists like that.”