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Commencement Speaker

commencement collage spring 2021

Commencement Speaker

Missy Elliott
Melissa "Missy" Arnette Elliott
Singer, Songwriter, and Producer

One of the most significant female artists in contemporary music history, Missy Elliott is an avant garde solo superstar, pioneering songwriter-producer, and across-the-board cultural icon. The multi-Grammy® Award winner has attained unprecedented success, including 22 Grammy® nominations spanning three decades, eight MTV Video Music Awards, and sales now exceeding 30 million in the U.S. alone. All of Missy's six studio albums have each been RIAA platinum certified or better, marking her among the only female rappers ever to achieve that remarkable accomplishment. Missy is also a writer and a producer of many hit songs for other artists.

Born in Portsmouth, VA, Missy first made waves for her inventive songwriting and production work alongside her childhood friend, Timothy Mosely a.k.a Timbaland. Together they created an innovative, idiosyncratic sound all their own, heard on a score of hits for the late Aaliyah - including “One In A Million,” “If Only Your Girl Knew,” and “Hot Like Fire” - as well as such chart topping favorites as SWV's “Can We,” 702's “Where My Girls At?,” Destiny's Child's “Confessions,” and Whitney Houston's “In My Business.”

Elliott's milestone solo debut, 1997's RIAA platinum certified Supa Dupa Fly, proved a landmark, debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200 - the highest charting debut for a female rapper at that date. Immediately acclaimed upon release as a boundary-shattering masterpiece, SUPA DUPA FLY spawned a string of blockbuster hit singles, including “Sock It 2 Me,” “Hit Em Wit Da Hee,” “Beep Me 911,” and of course “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).” Da Real World followed in 1999, showcasing the record-breaking #1 hit, “Hot Boyz (Remix) (Feat. Lil' Mo, Nas, Eve & Q-Tip)”; which landed itself in the Guinness Book Of World Records.

2001's Miss E. So Addictive was yet another platinum certified milestone, a worldwide sensation that established Elliott as hip-hop's preeminent female artist. With its six note Punjabi hook, the album's “Get Ur Freak On” redefined contemporary pop and hip hop, earning Missy her first-ever Grammy® Award (for “Best Rap Performance”).“ Under Construction debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 upon its 2002 release and has since been certified 2x platinum for 2.5 million sales in the U.S. alone. “Work It,” Melissa “Missy” Arnette Elliott Singer, Songwriter, and Producer 8 • The 109th Commencement The 109th Commencement • 9 the album's lead single made history by spending an incredible 10 weeks at #2 on Billboard's “Hot 100,” tied as the longest running #2 single not to reach the #1 position. Missy's sixth studio album, 2005's The Cookbook, which became platinum certified in 2022, featured the Grammy®-nominated “We Run This” and the chartbusting “Lose Control (Feat. Ciara & Fatman Scoop).” Elliott's most recent work, 2019's acclaimed EP, Iconology, drew instant applause upon its surprise release, with USA Today declaring it “a master class at the school of Missy Misdemeanor Elliott... The project brings back the Missy fans know and love, with booming bass beats that are the perfect backdrop to showcase her lyrical prowess.” The EP includes the hit singles “Throw It Back,” “DripDemeanor (Feat. Suml),” and the aforementioned “Why I Still Love You,” all of which are joined by spectacular companion visuals streaming at the hugely popular Missy Elliott official YouTube channel, now boasting more than 715M individual views and counting. Missy's massive mainstream accomplishments have extended far beyond her own solo works, including innumerable guest appearances on singles and remixes by a truly diverse span of musical artists. As one of modern pop's definitive songwriters and producers, Elliott's star-studded list of songwriting credits continues to grow, including collaborations with Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, The Notorious B.I.G, Katy Perry, Ciara, Monica, K. Michelle, Mary J ,Ginuwine, Fantasia, Jazmine Sullivan, Toni Braxton, Justin Timberlake, The Clark Sisters, Kiki Sheard , Queen Latifah, Madonna, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, J-Zay, Sean Puffy Combs, Dua Lipa, Uzzo, Pharrell Williams, Brazilian singer Anita, and many others.

Recent years have seen a series of surprise event appearances like her unforgettable performance in 2015's Super Bowl XLIX alongside Katy Perry. Not to mention that the “Supa Bowl” is still the most-watch Super Bowl of all time. Missy Elliott sales on all of her albums had a rise of 996%. In 2016, Elliott united with former First Lady Michelle Obama for “This Is For My Girls,” an all-star anthem to female empowerment performed by Kelly Clarkson, Chloe x Halle, Missy Elliott, Jadagrace, Lea Michele, Janelle Monáe, Kelly Rowland, and Zendaya. Missy Elliott was delighted to be the surprise guest of Michelle Obama for James Corden's Epic Carpool Karaoke.

2019 saw Elliott making history as the first female rapper ever to receive the MTV Video Music Awards' prestigious Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. That same year saw Elliott break new ground as the first female hip-hop artist and third-ever rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Furthermore, Elliott became the first female rapper to receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music, celebrating her lasting contributions to music and popular culture. Further accolades followed in 2021, with Elliott named among the twelve inaugural inductees for the new Atlanta landmark, The Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame, and later honored with her own star on the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. 2022 has been the year of Missy Elliott, having celebrated Supa Dupa Fly turning 25 in July as well as the RIAA presenting her with her six platinum plaques for being the only female hip-hop artist to hold this title. Additionally, Under Construction turns 20 in November. That same year, she received the Women's Entrepreneurship Day Music Pioneer award at the United Nations, where she was recognized for her musical achievements and leadership.

Recently Elliott was honored in her hometown of Portsmouth, VA with her own street, “Missy Elliott Blvd”. Furthermore, on Oct 17th, was declared Missy Elliott Day by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was celebrated with a special ceremony and parade by her alma mater, Manor High School.