Missy Elliott became the first female rapper to receive an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
New reports, from Essence and Rolling Stone, revealed that the 47-year-old Virginia native, known for her classic hits, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, “Sock It 2 Me”, “Hot Boys”, “Work It”, “Gossip Folks”, and more, was to be awarded a honorary doctorate of music for her contribution to music over the past two decades. The 10-time Grammy winner took to Instagram to celebrate with her followers in the momentous occasion.
By far one of the most innovative musical artists of our time, Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott has always been in a class all her own. One of the most successful rappers to come out of the 1990’s, she has gained a reputation as one of the most sought-after writers and producers in R&B and Hip-Hop. Working with everyone from 702, to Ciara, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Madonna, to the late greats Whitney Houston and Aaliyah, her sonically innovative sounds along with catchy lyrics created a new wave of hip-hop. She is also considered a pioneering hip hop feminist, chartering a new course for women in hip-hop.
Elliott spent much of the early 90’s paying dues behind the production board, learning from producers such Devante Swing and Sean “Puffy” Combs. One of her earliest hits was 1993’s “That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of” by then 8-year-old singer-actress Raven-Symone. Elliott soon found herself behind the mic, featuring on songs by artists like MC Lyte, Gina Thompson, and New Edition, before finally signing a deal with Elektra Records in 1997 and, after a record-breaking six studio albums, the rest in “her-story.”
Kat George writes in her 2016 Dazed article, that “Elliott’s message has been clear, and that’s that women, whether conforming to heteronormative gender binaries or not, are equal to men, as important as men, and as powerful…from body and sex positivity, to being a champion for women-supporting-women, Elliott shouldn’t be forgotten when we talk about feminism in pop. Indeed, she should be celebrated for carving a path to it, revered for her take-no-prisoners attitude to feminine autonomy.”
In a misogyny-driven industry like hip-hop, Elliott refused to conform to the late 90’s male-gazed hip-hop ushered in by Lil Kim and Foxy Brown.
Her music videos capitalized more on her creativity instead of her curves.
According to the 2010 documentary My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth about Women & Hip-Hop, female rappers posed as the tokenized female flavor of major record label as well as the female counterpart of major rappers in the mid-late 1990’s. Lil Kim was the protégé of Notorious B.I.G and Atlantic. Da Brat was the protégé of Jermaine Dupri and So-So Def. Yo-Yo was the protégé of Ice Cube and East-West America. Lady of Rage was the protégé of Dr. Dre and Death Row.
Missy Elliott was the antithesis to this formula. By creating her own sound while staying true to her image, she fashioned a genuine and genius recipe for female rap authorship, building credibility through the same songwriting-production networking style many male rappers utilize. Songs to her credit include “One in a Million” by Aaliyah, “Steelo” by 702, “Need U Bad” by Jazmin Sullivan, “So Gone” by Monica, among others.
Elliott certainly has paid her dues and has completed all necessary coursework to receive an honorary doctorate of music, including a musical dissertation that includes creating some of the most successful songs in R&B and Hip-Hop within the last 25 years.