Missy Elliott's MTV Vanguard Award is Long Overdue

It’s been twenty years in the making, but hip-hop icon Missy Elliott will finally receive the coveted Video Vanguard Award at this year’s MTV VMAs, making her the first female rapper recipient.

Missy is also set to perform at the award ceremony for the first time in 16 years.

Elliott took to Twitter to thank her fans, including Kid Fury and Crissle West from the podcast The Read for their unrelenting support.

“I am Humbly Grateful to be receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. I thank my FANS “Supafriends” who fought diligently to see this day come.”

Missy couldn’t be more deserving of the award. When the rapper first burst onto the scene in 1997 with her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, her aesthetic and musical style were completely new to the hip-hop genre. She was weird and sexy, all in one.

At the time, you had rappers like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, who oozed sexuality in their lyrics and with their style. Meanwhile, Missy Elliott was a plus-sized woman and, although she wasn’t sexual in the same way that other female rappers were, she refused to let society strip her of her sensuality.

Missy also single-handedly brought back the concept of Afrofuturism that OG hip-hop heads saw with “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa. Her music video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” featured Missy in an inflatable black jumpsuit and the director used a fish-eye lens to exaggerate Missy’s features and give the video a more out-of-this-world feel. Another music video, “Sock It 2 Me“, showed Lil’Kim, Da Brat, Timbaland, and Missy in Mega Man-inspired costumes while being chased by robot monsters on a different planet.

It’s no secret that black people are often excluded from science fiction and nerd culture. For the most part, science fiction is overwhelming… white. But Missy created an image that black people had never seen themselves in before. And in doing so, inspired artists like Janelle Monae, one of Elliott’s biggest fans.

missy elliott mtv vmas vanguard award
Missy and Janelle / Facebook

Like Missy, Janelle and Afrofuturism go hand-in-hand. We see it in her music videos like “Make Me Feel”, “PYNK,” and “I Like That” from the album Dirty Computer, in which she also released a dystopian film of the same name with the album. In a 2018 interview with Hip Hop Nation, Janelle explained the impact Missy had on her childhood. She said,

“Missy Elliott, hands down inspired me growing up. She made me feel confident in my uniqueness or when people called me weird for going to thrift stores, I remember cutting off my relaxer. Nobody in my school was really doing the things that I was doing…there were times where I felt so out of place, and having Missy’s albums and her imagery, just how she presented herself…she fully embraced her uniqueness.”

That uniqueness has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, Missy was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, making her the third rapper to do so in the organization’s five-year history. And in May, she became the first rapper to receive an honorary doctorate degree in music from the Berklee College of Music.

Missy will receive her Vanguard Award at the MTV VMAs on August 26th. Make sure you tune in to catch her performance as well as her acceptance speech.


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Alysia Stevenson
Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she's not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.