How Missy Elliott’s ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ Album Paved the Way for Drake’s Career
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Drake may have said he learned the game from Creative Artists Agency consultant William Wesley on his ubiquitous Meek Mill diss track, "Back to Back," but we have a hunch that the roots of his style can be traced back to rap legend Missy Elliott, who has more in common with the Toronto rapper than many would think. While hip-hop fans may point to Jay Z as a point of reference when pinpointing Drake's lyrical forefather, Missy Elliott is a more accurate choice as a comparison to the OVO boss' musicality.
More than a decade removed from her last album, Missy's influence remains alive and well. She's regarded as one of the most entertaining rap artists ever, but her rise to the top was one of the most unlikely stories in hip-hop history. A native of Portsmouth, Va., Missy took to music at an early age and used her trials and tribulations to fuel her ambition. A meeting with Jodeci backstage at one of the group's shows early on would be Missy and partner Timbaland's entrance into the big leagues, much like Drake's fateful meeting with Lil Wayne on his tour bus prior to the release of So Far Gone would do the same for his career nearly two decades later.
Missy's tenure with DeVante Swing's Swing Mob collective would garner her placements on Jodeci's final two albums, Diary of a Mad Band and The Show, The After Party, The Hotel, but would also be the period that would expose her to the downsides of the music business. After writing and rapping on child star-turned-public pariah Rayven-Symone's 1993 debut single, "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of," Missy was replaced in the video by what the label perceived as a more attractive female who rapped her part.
The rejection would play a big role in her future endeavors and cause her to never enter another situation where she was not in control. This served as the catalyst for Missy becoming one of the most dynamic personalities in all of rap. That transformation would be finalized after her and Timbaland's defection from the Swing Mob in the mid '90s while working with R&B star Aaliyah on her highly anticipated sophomore album, One in a Million. Writing and producing nine songs on the album, including the No. 1 hit, "If Your Girl Only Knew," lead Missy and Timbo to become two of the most sought-after artists at the time.
Suddenly the tables were turned and Missy had the juice now. The same record labels that had shunned her were now eating their words and courting her services. She decided to sign with East West Records, a division of Elektra, whom offered Missy her own imprint, the Goldmind Inc., as well as full creative control over her image and music. She quickly went about defying the expectations that fans had grown to have of female rap stars. When critics pegged her as undesirable, she made it a point to make her visuals as up close and personal as they could get. Originally ostracized for her size, she donned blown-up garbage bags in the music video for her debut single, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," and became a style icon.
Watch Missy Elliott "Sock It 2 Me" Video Feat. Da Brat
Similar moves have been pulled off by Drake as well, albeit with him poking fun at his lack of cool and his embarrassing career as a child actor and his track record with women, in videos and song. Street credibility was the crux of many a rapper's reputation prior to Drake, but over time he -- along with Kanye West -- have all but shunned the hardbody narratives of rappers past and have helped make them all but obsolete in today's landscape. Drake has also taken a page out of the book of Missy in terms of having full ownership of her brand. Many credit aspirations of surpassing the Jay Zs of the rap game in historical stature for Drake's ever-growing interest in being a mogul, but Roc-A-Fella Records was born more out of necessity rather than for aesthetics.
But what is most striking about the similarities between Missy and Drake is the music that they make. Missy Elliott is far from the lyricist Drake is, but her knack for concocting infectious melodies is an invaluable skill that sets her apart from any rapper in the history of the genre. Many people envision Missy as a spitter before a songstress, but upon closer observation, she's been a hybrid from the start. Her debut single, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," was a straight-forward cut that gets most of the props when fans speak of her emergence on the scene, but the album's three final three singles, "Sock It 2 Me," "Beep Me 911" and "Hit Em Wit Da Hee" all feature Missy putting the bars on pause and displaying her singing ability.
Speaking of the forgotten Supa Dupa Fly single, "Beep Me 911," could actually be taken as a counterpart to Drake's own "Hotline Bling" record and could have served as subtle inspiration for what many have pegged as the song of the summer. But perhaps the one song from Missy's catalog that could be mistaken as a template for Drake's sound is the Miss E...Addictive track, "Take Away." Featuring Ginuwine and Tweet and co-produced by Missy and Timbaland, "Take Away" was recorded in dedication to deceased R&B star Aaliyah, who played a huge part in taking Missy's own career to the next level. The song was very much in the vein of the hits that Missy had penned for Aaliyah over the years, including ones that went on to be referenced or adored by Drake himself.
Watch Missy Elliott's "Take Away" Video Feat. Ginuwine & Tweet
Aaliyah may be Drake's muse for all intents and purposes and Missy's influence on him may go undetected by the naked eye, but one instance in which it's blatant is on the So Far Gone fan favorite track, "Bria's Interlude." The song, dedicated to model and his ex-girlfriend Bria Myles, is one of the most popular songs on Drake's most popular body of work and contains a sample of Missy Elliott's Supa Dupa Fly album cut, "Friendly Skies." When asked about the inspiration behind using that particular sample, producer Noah "40" Shebib spoke fondly of the original. "[Missy Elliott’s] 'Friendly Skies' was one of my favorite songs from high school," Shebib stated in an interview with GQ. "I used to have a car with a system in it in high school, and it was one of my favorite things to play, driving through my neighborhood listening to that record. I had it on wax."
Missy never held the distinction of being the hottest rapper in the game during her prime, but her stat sheet rivals that of most artists from any era. Six consecutive platinum albums, five Grammy Awards and over 30 million records sold are just a few of the many accomplishments that speak to her impressive track record and even trumps the four platinum plaques and lone Grammy Award on Drizzy's resume at the moment.
One goal he'll never be able to achieve is actually working with Aaliyah in the studio aside from whichever ghost vocals may be available for him to poach in the future. And as far as holding another seance in the studio, don't hold your breath waiting for it, as all plans of Drake executive producing an Aaliyah album have been deaded due to disapproval from Aaliyah's family, fans and close friends such as Missy herself.
"I have to respect her family, and until they come and say, 'We're ready to do an Aaliyah album,' then I don't really want to come and try to get into that because that's very sensitive," Missy told Hot 97 when asked about being involved with any posthumous Aaliyah project. "It's not records that have already done came out. We're talking about unfinished music. "We don't know what [Aaliyah's] reasoning [was] for not putting those records out; maybe she felt like they weren't her best work."
Drake, on the other hand, seems to not see the big deal, but has decided to can the project for the foreseeable future. "Before things went downhill with it, I was actually working with my dream collaboration," Drake said of his work on an Aaliyah posthumous album. "Me and 40 were working on this Aaliyah album that kind of got blown out of proportion. There are records with me and Aaliyah that no one has ever heard and they're really good." When asked about what he felt was the reason behind the backlash, Drake chalked it up to differing opinions on the direction of the project. "I think the press got out of hand," Drake shared. "They maybe just had a different vision for it. I'm not sure. It was sounding great to me. Whatever they end up doing with it, I wish them the best of luck. There might be a record with me on there. I'm not sure."
While Drake may not be able to hook up with Aaliyah until the afterlife, he could stand to learn a thing or two from someone who helped pave the way for him. Our suggestion would be for him to call up his musical godmother Missy Elliott and cook up some jams, which would bring everything full circle. We're sure Baby Girl would be somewhere in heaven rocking out to their collabos right along with us.
Watch Missy Elliott's "Beep Me 911" Video Feat. 702 & Magoo
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