Missy Elliott on hoverboards, Pharrell Williams and WTF

With her first major release in 10 years, the Virginia rapper reflects on a decade of domesticity, working with Timbaland and not snoozing in the studio

Hello Missy! It feels as if you’ve almost come back a few times over the past 10 years (1). Why is now the right time?

Wow! Well, the times before, we were just testing the water. I tell people, when God aligns the stars, then I go. I’d most definitely say that Pharrell was the captain of the ship – he asked me to perform with him last year at the BET Awards, and then Katy Perry asked me to do the Super Bowl with her. After the Super Bowl, I think I was in shock. I was getting mad calls: “Do you see what’s goin’ on?” “Do you see what people are sayin’?” By that point I was back at my house washing dishes and vacuuming my floor! I’ve got my scarf on my head! And then Pharrell called. He said: “If you would have it, I would like to get in the studio with you.” And I was like: “This is Pharrell, am I gonna be non-busy? I’m vacuuming my floor!” So I said OK.

What sort of vacuum cleaner is it?

It’s one that you push. It’s a regular vacuum cleaner! I do regular things! When WTF (2) dropped, my phone was blowing up – people were texting me and emailing me. People be like: “You’re not gonna have no GET-TOGETHER? No dinner?” I’m like: “I’m here WASHING MY DOGS!” They’re like: “WASHING YOUR DOGS? Don’t you see what’s happening on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook?” I’m like: “I’m washing my dogs.

We nearly met in 1999 – you were asleep in the corner when I visited Timbaland in his studio. Do you still have the occasional snooze when people are working on your music?

[Laughs] If I was asleep it’s probably because we put in a lot of hours already. Normally, I’m wide AWAKE. Cos I like to HEAR! I hear a drum kick I don’t like? I’m like: “I don’t like THAT!”

It’s interesting that Timbaland’s been talking up your new music for the best part of a decade (3), but you went with Pharrell for WTF.

You know, it’s funny – me, Pharrell and Tim, we from Virginia. And we’re family. Tim and Pharrell used to be in a group together called Surrounded By Idiots. I always say, if I would work with anybody outside Tim for my projects, it would be Pharrell, because that’s still family. Actually, Tim and Pharrell were on the phone the other day – we’re all supposed to get in the studio, get some work done, finish it up. I didn’t know I was gonna go with a Pharrell record first, but when he played the beat it was like: “Oh my GOODNESS”. I wanted to have a record that makes people MOVE and DANCE again.

What was your reaction to Pharrell’s first line in his part of the song: “I come into this bitch like a liquid”?

[Uproarious laughter followed by brief spluttering] Hey! It’s Pharrell! Actually, when he played me the beat, he already had his verse written. He knew it when he got in the studio – he said: “Hey, I gotta get some bars on this thing.” When he started rapping, the flow was so crazy that he could have said ANYTHING! I felt like it was Neptunes Pharrell – spaceship, futuristic, boombastic type stuff (4). Yeah! Hey! Pharrell can say anything and make it hot!

How often these days do you get your hair did?

Oh, I get my hair did every other day.


HELL YEAH. Every. Other. Day. Oh trust me. My hairdresser’s house is probably looking bigger than mine at this point!

It’s a decade since your last album. How has your outlook on life changed in that time?

I guess my friends probably think I’m one of the lamest when it comes to doing stuff. I’ll stay in my house and watch Lockup, the prison show (5). But also I don’t take things as serious any more. I used to worry a lot. The reason I stay home more is because I realise that my blood pressure started going up. And I never had a vacation until 2005! I’ve only ever had two vacations in my whole career and I’ve been in the industry over twenty-something years! I felt like I had to take a second for myself before I look up and realise I haven’t enjoyed life. That’s the outlook now.

You’re on a hoverboard in your new video, but they’re basically illegal in the UK (6). Do you think David Cameron should take action and legalise them?

REALLY? WHY? Are they thinking somebody gonna hurt themselves? I mean I dunno, I don’t see no problem with them but I ain’t even gonna lie, I probably was about to bust my tail a coupla times when I first learned. They probably savin’ a lot of people from broken arms! You most definitely don’t wanna get on there and just go outside and start rollin’ in traffic! But once you learn, it’s all good.

Who’s the best MC in the world today?

I guess that means alive? That’s a hard one! I got a few people I like so I don’t wanna just say one. There used to be a time when I could just say one – I always thought Biggie was untouchable. But even then I loved Tupac, too. Lyrically, I feel it’s hard to hold a candle to Biggie.

Well, who’s good now?

Oh goodness. I’ve gotta go with André 3000. He’s something else.

There’s a lot of them out there – I don’t want to LIMIT! Drake makes great records. And Kendrick! And J Cole. They’re doing things that’s innovative, and I’m all for that. I’m at the back, cheerleading for that!

On an old episode of MTV Cribs, you stated very clearly that it’s important not to have carpet when you walk into a house. Do you still believe that?

I actually have a new house that I just bought and – guess what – my upstairs has carpet. I guess that’s another of the things that’s changed over the years. Because I’ve never liked carpet, but my new house has carpet in it.

Well, we’re all getting older, aren’t we?

We just gettin’ wiser!


1 In 2008, an album called Block Party was shelved; Missy subsequently put online two new songs – 9th Inning and Triple Threat – in 2012. During this time, she’s also recorded with artists such as Little Mix.

2 WTF (Where They From) was a surprise release last week. In the song Missy claims, among other things, that her body is “thick like a biscuit”.

3 Timbaland told Rolling Stone last year: “It’s something you ain’t never heard Missy do. It sounds today, but the future.”

4 If anyone would like to make a song from the audio of Missy saying “spaceship futuristic boombastic”, please contact the Guardian.

5 The prison documentary series has been running in the US for 23 seasons. There’s a lot of shouting.

6 Last month the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that self-balancing scooter things are only legal to ride on private property, and only with the landowner’s permission.

7 “You can’t have carpet when you walk in a house.” That’s what she said. (She did however have a huge glass tile with her own signature in it.)


Peter Robinson

The GuardianTramp

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