While introducing Missy Elliott at Friday night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Queen Latifah made sure the audience knew one important thing: They were about to witness history. Elliott became the first female rapper inducted into the Hall of Fame and celebrated with a dynamic performance that showcased her expansive influence as one of hip-hop’s most visionary performers.
Queen Latifah recognized Elliott as a multi-hyphenate, calling her “one of the greatest producers ever, period” and also noting that she’s written classic hits for stars like Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, and Aaliyah throughout her career. She also highlighted how much Elliott’s partnership with producer Timbaland — and their work on Elliott’s transformative album Supa Dupa Fly as teenagers — impacted music and pop culture.
“We had never heard anything like that in our lives. They opened the door to new possibilities in all aspects on contemporary music, very much including rock and roll, but trust me, nothing sounded the same after Missy came on the scene. All the kick snares and everything changed — the bass lines changed, the pockets changed, the cadence, the writing. And that’s because Missy has always been a futurist, someone who is always looking ahead. She is avant-garde without even trying.”
She also recognized the path Elliott blazed in hip-hop, and the feminist legacy her artistry represents. “Missy has never been afraid to speak out about the misconceptions, the stereotypes, and the straight-up misogyny that has been placed — and the obstacles — that have been put in place in the way of women,” Latifah said. “She has been a leader in blowing those obstacles away. But Missy’s message really is for everyone, and that message is, ‘It’s possible to do everything and to be great at it.’”
Immediately after, Elliott followed up Latifah’s speech with a grand display of how she arrived on that stage in the first place. Performing a decades-spanning medley, she launched into her classic Timbaland team-up “Get Ur Freak Out,” from her second album Miss E… So Addictive. Dressed in a glittering gold suit and bucket hat, Elliott dove into “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” surrounded by dancers and choreography that encapsulated her musical and visual influence on pop culture over the decades. Elliott rounded out the medley with three back-to-back musical monsters: “Work It,” “Pass That Dutch,” and “Lose Control,” even jumping offstage and running through the crowd.
Over the years, Elliott has remained humble in the face of praise — even when a street in her hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia, was named after her in 2022. But in her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech, the musician took a moment to bask in the acclaim. She thanked her mother, Timbaland, and several close friends supporting her at the event, and also honored past and fellow inductees: “I’m still pinching myself to even be in a room with some of the inductees that I see. Flavor Flav, who is a legend, I love you and you’ve always been supportive. Elton John, legendary. Sheryl Crow, Chaka Khan, Willie Nelson — all of these people have impacted people around the world through their music.” She also shouted out artists like Salt-N-Pepa and Queen Latifah, who inspired her own journey.
She grew emotional reflecting about the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and how her career had brought her to the stage. “You just feel like it’s so far to reach when you’re in the hip hop world and to be standing here, it means so much to me,” she said, choking back tears.
“I’ll never forget when I did ‘Lose Control,’ [the label] told me it was never gonna play. Because it was too fast, right?” Elliott told Rolling Stone last November. “The popular music tempos were changing at the time. And I was like, “man, I don’t care. I’m gonna try.” I always say I’d rather it don’t work out, but I believed in it. As opposed to you doing something somebody else felt like you should do, and then it don’t work out. Because then you’re just kicking yourself. You have to stay true to yourself.”
Last year, Elliott was honored in Rolling Stone‘s Icons & Influences series with a tribute from Flo Milli, one artist in a generation of rappers who learned from the Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott playbook. “I see her influence everywhere. When you look at her videos and her aesthetic, she made it cool to just be her,” the young artist explained. “She always knew what she wanted. That fearlessness and individuality has played a role in how a lot of artists are now. Her videos were so creative and out of this world. Those ideas were spread upon the generation we have now.”