Quick: Name the 21st century’s most important performance artist. Marina Abramovic? ERRRRRTT. Nope. Bjork? Try again. Bjork’s weirdo ex-husband? Think the fuck again, people! Beyonce? Closer, but no cigar.
Here, I’ll help you out with a few hints. Who was one of the first person to use fashion as a tool to subvert racial and gender stereotypes, while looking absolutely, amazingly fly? Who didn’t give a shit about being labelled too ‘strong’ or ‘masculine’? Who spat in the face of the patriarchy and told the world that it had to make way for her, instead of trying to fit into some preconceived idea of what an artist, Black woman, dancer, rapper, or activist looked like?
Yeah, it was Missy. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, if you’re AT ALL confused about it. And if you have any questions about this assessment, may I direct you to this handy dandy little chart that lays it all out for you in one place. Songs about masturbation? Check. Radical body positivity? Uh huh. Album photo taken in a Black Panther chair? Check and check. Let’s just tell it like it is: Feminism would not be where it is today if Missy hadn’t been there first. She is the original gender-fucking, unapologetically Black performance artist, and she’s been consistently underrated since the start of her career.
Why, you may ask?
I think you know the answer. Look around you. Look at the man sitting in the White House right now. Does this look like a world that has ever been or will ever be ready for Missy Elliott’s truth?
Sadly it is not. We don’t deserve this woman, and we really never have. But Thank God we have her anyway. Last year, she suprised us with “WTF (Where They From)”, a video that payed tribute to the loss of Black lives over the years and in the present political climate. Today, in the midst of a terrible, back-breaking week of American tragedies, Missy has seen fit to bless us with a beautiful, incredible video for “I’m Better”, another song–as most of hers are–about being your goddamn self and having everybody fucking run with it. Call it a battle cry, call it a new world anthem–whatever you call it, listen hard, and try to learn from Missy what you can. She’s always had something to tell us, and it’s about time we really started to listen.