Melissa Arnette Elliott (born July 1, 1971), better known as Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, is an American rapper, dancer and record producer.
Elliott embarked on her music career with all-female R&B group Sista in the early 1990s and later became a member of the Swing Mob collective along with childhood friend and longtime collaborator Timbaland, with whom she worked on projects for Aaliyah, 702, Total, and SWV.
Following several collaborations and guest appearances, she launched her solo career in 1997 with her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, which spawned the hit singles “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Sock It 2 Me”. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, the highest-charting debut for a female rapper at the time.
Elliott’s following album Da Real World (1999), produced the singles “She’s a Bitch”, “All n My Grill”, and top five hit “Hot Boyz” The remix broke the record for most weeks at number-one on the US R&B chart on the issue dated January 15, 2000; as well as spending 18 weeks at number one on the Hot Rap Singles from December 4, 1999 to March 25, 2000, which is still the longest reign at number one to date on that chart.
With the release of Miss E…, So Addictive (2001), Under Construction (2002), and This Is Not a Test! (2003) Elliott established an international career that yielded hits including “Get Ur Freak On”, “One Minute Man”, “4 My People”, “Gossip Folks”, and “Work It”. The latter won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rap Solo Performance; Elliott went on to win four Grammy Awards and sell over 30 million records in the United States. She is the best-selling female rap artist in Nielsen Music history.
Melissa Arnette Elliott was born on July 1, 1971, at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. She is the only child of mother Patricia Elliott, a power-company dispatcher, and father Ronnie, a U.S. Marine no longer on active duty working as a Shipyard welder. Elliott grew up in an active church choir family, and singing was a normal part of her youth.
At the age of four in 1975, she wanted to be a performer, and, as biographer Veronica A. Davis writes, she “would sing and perform for her family”. In later years, she feared no one would take her seriously, because she was always the class clown. While her father was an active Marine, the family lived in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in a manufactured home community. Elliott blossomed during this part of her life.
She enjoyed school for the friendships she formed though she had little interest in school work. She would later get well above average marks on intelligence tests, and she was advanced two years ahead of her former class. Her move in grades caused isolation, and she purposely failed, eventually returning to her previous class. When her father returned from the Marines, they moved back to Virginia, where they lived in extreme poverty.
Life in Virginia saw many hardships. Elliott tells of domestic abuse by her father. She refused to stay over at friends’ homes out of fear that, on her return home, she would find her mother dead. When Elliott was eight, she was molested by a cousin. In one violent incident, Ronnie Elliott dislocated his wife’s shoulders and, during another, Elliott herself was threatened with a gun.
At fourteen, Elliott’s mother decided to end the situation; she fled with her daughter under the guise of taking a joyride on a local bus. In reality, the pair had found refuge at a family member’s home where their possessions were stored in a loaded U-Haul truck. Elliott tells that she feared her father would kill them both for leaving.
She later stated, “When we left, my mother realized how strong she was on her own, and it made me strong. It took her leaving to realize.”
Elliott and her mother lived in the Hodges Ferry neighborhood of Portsmouth, Virginia. Elliott graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1990.