For two decades Missy Elliott has been a pioneer in hip-hop—not only as a rapper, songwriter, and producer, but also as a music video artist.
It’s hard to think of any rapper, nay, any artist period, who has consistently delivered on groundbreaking visuals for her singles.
She made her neck stretch to lengths any giraffe would envy in “Get Ur Freak On.” She went bald in a post-apocalyptic fantasy for “She’s a Bitch.” She wore an inflatable suit in “The Rain” and gave pop culture one of its go-to Halloween costumes every year (including my 2014 Halloween).
And those are just her classics.
When Elliott returned to music with her 2015 hit “WTF (Where They From),” she continued her relentless innovation in music videos, from Pharrell Williams as a marionette to underwater exercise ball dancing and LED-looking lips in “I’m Better” to her latest clip, “Throw It Back,” where she uses her braids for the only game of double dutch that matters from this day forth.
Elliott’s genius has spanned decades, so she seemed like a shoo-in for an award honoring consistent artistic achievements in music videos. However, year after year, other artists took the stage to take Elliott’s things. Britney Spears got a Vanguard before Elliott. Justin Timberlake got a Vanguard before Elliott. Jennifer Lopez got a Vanguard before Elliott. All major artists, to be sure, but come on . . .
There had been grumblings of injustice on social media and even a Change.org petition, but the true catalyst for Elliott finally getting her rightful award came from Kid Fury and Crissle West, the cohosts of the podcast The Read.
Anyone who listens to The Read knows that Kid Fury in particular is prone to slip into ‘stan mode for Elliott (or fellow rapper Trina) at any given moment. But when Lopez was announced as the Vanguard recipient last year, Kid Fury placed MTV in the “read” section of the show (the podcast’s third act where the hosts roast whatever or whoever pissed them off that week).
“I don’t really feel I need to shade Jennifer Lopez, because I wouldn’t have a problem with Jennifer Lopez winning this award if Missy already had one,” he said in the 2018 episode “Cheerleading.” “I won’t be watching anything MTV-related until Missy Elliott gets a Vanguard award—and that won’t be hard.”
When it was announced in January that Elliott would be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Fury started with his usual praise in the show’s “black excellence” section but wasted no time in coming for MTV yet again.
“MTV, I’m still lookin’ at you hoes,” Kid Fury said in the episode “Super Soulja Bros.” “You’re not putting on too many more of these Video Music Awards and giving out Vanguards and shit, bitch, like you haven’t been ignoring the video . . . I can’t say queen, king . . . just the video deity.”
The Read‘s emphatic endorsement of Elliott would’ve been just another blip on the radar except for the fact that the podcast has more than 85 million listens worldwide, 1.5 million unique listens a month, and a rabid fan base that unfailingly carries conversations on the show straight to social. (The Read is headed to TV too, as a forthcoming talk show on Fuse.)
Clearly, someone at MTV finally logged online and checked their notifications.
When news broke that Elliott would finally receive the Vanguard Award, she took to Twitter and gave a shout-out to Kid Fury and West for their support. She even thanked them during her acceptance speech.
“They the ones that caped for me to get this,” she said.
It’s out and out a shame that anyone had to convince people at MTV that Elliott was deserving of an award created for exactly what she’s been doing her whole career: creating innovative visuals that have the impact to influence culture in meaningful ways.
As West put it in an episode of The Read, “Missy’s work cannot be denied. It’s just that simple.”