After the release of this summer’s Supa Dupa Fly, one of 1997’s most innovative hip-hop albums, 25-year-old Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott swiftly rose to supastardom. A one-woman entertainment complex, Elliott does it all: She raps. She sings. She’s a producer. She has her own record label, the Gold Mind. She has also penned hits for Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Jodeci and SWV. But it is Supa Dupa Fly that best showcases Elliott’s languid, low-key rhyming, sly humor and potent gift for songwriting. The record’s gleefully strange first video, “The Rain,” featured Elliott in a gargantuan inflatable jumpsuit. As an only child growing up in Portsmouth, Va. (where she still lives with her mom), Elliott used to line up her dolls and sing to them, imagining that they were clapping for her. Now she has hordes of wanna-be’s who imitate her trademark look (there are a lot more Missys out there than there are Lil’ Kims), and she drives herself around in a Mercedes jeep — when she’s not driving the Mercedes SLK or the Lexus. “Two of them have TVs,” she says. “Oh, and VCRs.”
You’ve had quite a year — Supa Dupa Fly has gone gold, and now Brandy and Mariah Carey are calling and asking you to write songs. How do you react when these things come your way?
When I get phone calls like that, I just be like, “Thank you, Lord,” because he knows the trials and tribulations I went through to get here. I didn’t step on the scene overnight, even though it might seem like that to people.
Some people don’t ask the Lord for anything, they just thank him. Do you think that’s superstitious?
If you believe a black cat is bad luck, people think you’re crazy, but plenty of times if I see a black cat down my street, I turn around and go the other way. Even if I’m late. I’ll be late for the airport and be in a limo, and if I see a black cat, I’ll be like, “Sir, you have to turn around and go down the next street.” Me personally, I don’t ask too much, but I do ask him to continue to bless me successfully, financially and just to keep me humble. You know.
When you’re in these outrageous costumes for your videos, you seem like a complete exhibitionist, yet you’re shy in the studio.
When I’m in the studio, I like to be in there by myself, because if I’m in the mike room and I look out and see people talking or they’re not nodding their head or rocking to the music, it makes me feel like it don’t sound good, or I’ll be scared to really open up vocally because I might mess up and they might be in there laughing.
You’ve been writing and performing from a very young age. Where, exactly, did all this confidence come from?
Well, I mean, I always have been an entertainer, whether it’s been joking or performing for people. And I always thought I had a talent, because I could rap and I could sing and I did write. And all the other kids were going to college, but I just felt like I had to do this first, and if it didn’t work, then I would go to college. And I’m not encouraging people not to go, but that’s how strong I felt about me being talented enough to make it in the business.
Do you remember the first song you whipped up when you were a kid?
I just remember it was about some butterflies or … some roaches [laughs].
When’s the last time you laughed until you cried?
We were in a drive-through, and one of the girls from [the group] Total wanted to say something and she spit some chicken or something out in the car, and we just were laughing for 20 minutes straight. And there was a long line of people waiting. And the guy behind the glass, he was just patiently sitting there, holding a bag of food, and we couldn’t even take it ’cause we were laughing so hard.
Lastly, your goals for 1998, please.
I want to get into movies. I got some things happening, but I can’t really talk about them.
Oh? Do you want to act?
No. I want to direct.