Missy Elliott on Writing For Aaliyah, Beyonce and Herself


The nominee for the 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame discusses her songwriting profession.

Missy Elliott, who has a historical past of writing and producing a few of pop music’s most inventive and catchy songs, breaks down a number of the hits she’s written for herself and different stars. Elliott is likely one of the nominees for the 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame.



Aaliyah had been coming off the most important success of her 1994 debut album, the R. Kelly-produced Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, when newcomers Missy Elliott and Timbaland have been referred to as in to work on ONE tune with the R&B goddess.   

But one tune changed into eight, and “One In a Million” — the tune and the album — was born.

“I used to be scared. I don’t know if Tim was scared after we first performed it as a result of it was a special sound. It was a special strategy to assault data as a result of individuals have been actually singing then; that world of rap-singing didn’t actually exist,” Elliott defined. “Because I wasn’t actually a singer like that, that’s why I wrote like that, as a result of I used to be a rapper, however I didn’t know the right way to do a bunch of runs, so each file that I might assault, I might assault it like I’m rap-singing it.”

But Aaliyah beloved the tune and appreciated Elliott and Timbaland’s distinctive type.

“She had an ear and he or she knew what that music made her really feel like. She was subsequent degree to grasp that that is some subsequent degree (music). This is not only the sound that’s happening proper now — this can be a new sound that's being created. This complete motion is new,” Elliott mentioned.

Elliott and Timbaland would go to type a particular bond with Aaliyah that was unmatched — as heard on “One In a Million” and its follow-up Aaliyah, launched a month earlier than Aaliyah died in 2001.

Elliott says though “One In a Million” topped the R&B charts, radio didn’t wish to play the tune at first.

″(Radio) mentioned they couldn’t mix it in, they couldn’t combine it in with data earlier than it or after it as a result of the cadence hadn’t been carried out earlier than,” she mentioned. “And so in some way, I feel her uncle spoke to some individuals and so they find yourself enjoying it. I do know (Funkmaster) Flex was one of many first individuals to interrupt that file in New York. ...It was a headache at first.”


MISSY ELLIOTT that includes NAS, EVE and Q-TIP, “Hot Boyz”

Another tune Elliott mentioned radio didn’t wish to play was “Hot Boyz.”

That might sound like a shock since “Hot Boyz” set a file when it spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s rap songs chart. And since 1999, Drake and Iggy Azalea have been capable of match the feat, however nobody has outlasted Elliott’s hit.

“I keep in mind one of many stations in L.A. was the primary to tug it,” she mentioned. “And one thing occurred, I can’t let you know what occurred, however no matter occurred, it ended up again on the stations ... and it ended up within the Guinness Book of World Records.”

The upbeat, hard-hitting tune, which featured rappers Nas, Eve and Q-Tip, was one Elliott wished to create not just for her die-hard feminine followers, however her male followers, too.

“I would like guys to really feel like they might trip round and take heed to this as a result of the beat was so exhausting. This beat really feel like all of the male rappers would wish to get on this joint proper right here,” she mentioned.



702′s “Where My Girls At?” reached No. four on the Hot 100 chart in 1999, however Elliott mentioned she initially wrote the anthem for TLC.

“Lisa (“Left Eye” Lopes) actually wished it, she actually wished that file, however I assume, if it’s two towards one (what are you able to do?)” So I ended up giving that file to 702, which was cool as a result of they have been a gaggle. I knew whoever had it, I wished it to be going to a gaggle.”

Of the largest songs of 1999, “Where My Girls At?” was ranked No. 11 by Billboard. Elliott mentioned she wished ladies to really feel empowered after they heard the enjoyable observe.

“It’s nearly like church — if you go to church, pastor is saying one thing (and also you’re) like, ‘I swear up and down that message is for me.’ I wished to create one thing ladies might really feel like, ‘I might relate to this file.’”



Elliott’s debut single, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” goes down in historical past as one of the vital inventive, distinctive and spectacular songs of all-time.

But Elliott mentioned she created the tune — and her first album — in an settlement to get her personal label so she might signal artists and produce for them.

“Of course, these have been my smoke days, you'll be able to inform by the primary line. I simply went in and I simply mentioned no matter I felt. Back then, there was no expectation, so it wasn’t like I needed to actually suppose and say, ’OK, I've to make one thing higher than what I did the final time. This was my first time getting into, so it was like, regardless of the music made me really feel, I mentioned it,” she mentioned.

Elliott and Timbaland completed her platinum-selling album, launched in 1997, in simply two weeks.

“That’s how fast I wished to rush up and get my label deal. I might do songs 5 songs a day, so it was nothing. This was earlier than individuals even knew who I used to be,” she mentioned.



Elliott knew Destiny’s Child could be huge earlier than they blew up.

She labored on the tune “Confessions,” from the group’s sophomore album The Writing’s on the Wall, which gave them their pop star breakthrough.

“They all had one thing particular. And Beyonce, she knew precisely the right way to assault a file,” Elliott mentioned. “When I heard Bey singing the verses, I used to be like, ‘Oh they finna go far.’”

The groovy tune, a couple of girl dishonest on her accomplice and confessing the reality, was one Elliott wrote particularly for the group after they reached out to work collectively.

“And it’s humorous once I suppose again on it since you not often get ladies having to admit. It’s at all times the man who finally ends up having to admit,” Elliott mentioned. “That was a special form of twist for a feminine to be like, ‘Look, I principally kicked it with Mike if you was gone, this went down and that went down.’”



After Elliott created many of the music for her third album, “Miss E... So Addictive,” she felt like she was lacking one thing. But Timbaland felt she was overanalyzing the scenario.

“By this time, he’s aggravated. He simply occurred to be in entrance of the keyboard and he begins simply urgent the buttons on the keyboard however he when was doing it, he was mad,” she recalled. “He begins to create round this sound.”

It kicked off the sound for what later turned “Get Ur Freak On,” the album’s first single and a monster hit for Elliott. It received one of the best rap solo efficiency Grammy, beating out Jay-Z, DMX and Nelly.

“I’m at all times a headache to Timbaland. He has to take holidays after we’re carried out with my album as a result of I stress him out,” she mentioned.

The eye-popping music video matched the tune’s wild power and even featured cameos by Ludacris, LL Cool J, Eve, Busta Rhymes, Master P, Ja Rule and the late Nate Dogg.

“I miss these days. ...there was a time the place you didn’t must be a characteristic on the file, you simply help,” she mentioned. “I attempted to assemble if individuals have been on the town like, ‘Hey, come by means of’ and so they at all times confirmed up. I’m humbled by that.”


CIARA that includes MISSY ELLIOTT, “1, 2 STEP”

Missy Elliott hadn’t even met Ciara when she created “1, 2 Step” for the star.

Elliott was busy working her personal music and hadn’t heard Ciara’s debut hit, “Goodies,” when she was requested to jot down a tune for the budding singer.

“Back then individuals weren’t actually sing-rapping. Now that’s the factor. But I wished it to be the place she nonetheless form of rap-sings it. It allowed her to have the ability to dance, so she’s not sitting there making an attempt to do all these runs and sing and all that stuff, as a result of you'll be able to’t actually get off if you making an attempt to sing and then you definitely making an attempt to do the entire matrix factor going backward,” she mentioned, referring to Ciara’s expert dancing.

They lastly met on the set of “1, 2 Step,” Ciara’s second single which reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart. It turned the fifth most profitable tune of 2005.

The two went to collaborate on extra songs, even successful a Grammy collectively for “Lose Control.”

“When you've got that form of chemistry, you’re going to at all times work collectively,” Elliott mentioned.



The hook of Elliott’s “Work It” encompasses a well-known line the place the lyrics are performed in reverse.

She mentioned it was a contented accident.

“The reverse factor, that was a mistake. The engineer occurred to hit one thing, and it simply went backward, and I used to be like, ’Oh that’s form of loopy as a result of it went backward on the beat. So, after that occurred, I mentioned, ‘Yo, preserve that in there and I’m going to jot down round it.’”

The web in 2002 went loopy — in as we speak’s world it could have been a viral second — as followers tried to determine what Elliott was saying within the tune. Some thought it was a secret code or message. “They thought I used to be saying every kind of nasty stuff,” she mentioned. “No, truly, I’m not, this time.”

“Work It” was the primary single from Elliott’s fourth album, Under Construction, which earned a Grammy nomination for album of the 12 months. She mentioned Timbaland actually challenged her to jot down one thing nice on “Work It.”

“I don’t file in entrance of anybody, so I went in one other room and recorded, and I felt like just a little child going to their daddy with their report card. About the fifth time, he’s like, ‘That’s it. That’s what I’m speaking about.’”