Music videos make songs pop and reach people in ways audio doesn’t.
Just ask Missy Elliott, whose music videos single-handedly flipped the hiphop sphere upside down. While the three-time Grammy winner’s music stands the test of time, the effort she put in her videos of the span of two-plus decades has catapulted her into an arena of her own.
From her first album Supa Dupa Fly in 1997 to her latest project, Iconology EP, which debuted in 2019, Missy has been introducing Black audiences to Afro-futurism, Afro-surrealism, hyperdimensional realms and other surreal technologies and expressions of Blackness that simply wasn’t seen from hip hop artists.
While “Twerkulator” is technically the Cook Book artist’s biggest directed song, she actually started in 2014, with Jersey artist Sharaya J’s “Takin' It No More / Shut it Down” single. Additionally, she’s played co-director and protégé to possibly the greatest music video director of all time in Dave Meyers, who directed 11 out of her 21 videos, beginning with 2001’s "Get Ur Freak On" and re-teaming with her as recently as 2017 for “I’m Better.”
As a recipient of the MTV Video Vanguard Award, which honored her two-plus decades of creating groundbreaking visuals for the craft, it only makes sense for the rap icon to transition behind the camera.
As she’s nominated for Video Director of the Year at the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards, here’s a look at all the times Missy’s shared director cred, because although she hasn’t won, she’s far from a rookie in the category.
Teary Eyed (2005)
"Teary Eyed" is a more narrative video for Missy Elliott, as it tells the story of what horrors await after heartbreak as Elliott slashes the tires of her former lover causing a heart-wrenching car crash.
There are dope shots of Elliott swinging around from the ceiling in a black leather straight jacket — a theme that can be seen in Rihanna’s “Disturbia” video.
Takin' It No More / Shut it Down (2014)
One of the coolest takeaways is how the video incorporates real-time sign language translations into their dance moves.
WTF (Where They From) (2015)
“WTF(‘ Where They From)” is one of Missy’s most recognizable videos but did you know she had a key role in its creation?
Missy had the idea of puppets, having been inspired by them in her own time, but after looking into the puppet world and how long that takes, her long-time collaborator, Meyers, encouraged her to take it up a notch.
“Tired of setups after a certain length of time, I hit her the next morning with the rest of the treatment: "So what about a mirror Missy, what about a two-face Missy, what about the dancers popping out of boxes," he tells the Fader in a 2015 interview.
The end result was a masterpiece.
I'm Better (2017)
Choreographed with Sean Bankhead, Missy teamed up with Meyers again to co-direct “I’m Better” in one of her most visually tantalizing shots.
“I’m Better” has a little bit of everything: sci-fi with some underwater choreography, avant-garde fashion, dancers wearing light-up welding masks, bouncing off yoga balls.
The extravagant production took a month of intense rehearsals to put together and speaks to how committed Missy is to the vision.
Released in May, and thought to be a part of their upcoming City On Lock album, Yung Miami and JT’s “Twerkulator”definitely had its moment this summer, going viral on TikTok and charting as one of the year’s best singles.
The best part of the song and video, however, is the fact that they tapped Missy to direct it.
Elliott expressed her thanks on Instagram, saying: “I am humbly grateful to Miami and JT and all of the dancers. You all rehearsed from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at night. Y’all danced for weeks and I know it was days y’all was so tired and over me pushing y’all, but I’m happy y’all hung right in there!”
With choreography by Sean Bankhead, the video starts off with a warning from Elliott to the people of a fictional Twerk City:
“This is an emergency. This is not a test. Everyone, please take shelter immediately! The Twerkulators have already invaded Twerk City, and you don’t have much time. They’ve already landed, and they’re taking over. Run for cover, motherfuckers!”
City Girls brought the song to the 2021 BET Awards stage for an eye-catching performance.