Missy Elliott’s career-defining song

It’s hard to believe that she’s never had her own headlining tour – but Missy Elliott has just announced her first, 27 years after the release of her debut album. Starting on 4 July in Vancouver and set to wrap on 22 August, Out of This World – The Missy Elliott Experience 2024 will feature support from Ciara, Busta Rhymes and Timbaland. Pre-sale tickets for the tour launch today, with general sale available from 12 April.

“Fans have been asking me to tour forever but I wanted to wait until I felt the time was right because I knew if I was ever going to do it, I had to do it big, and I had to do it with family,” Elliott shared in a statement. “This is an incredible time in my life as I am experiencing so many milestone ‘firsts’,” Elliott continued. “Being the first female hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and now going out on my first headline tour.”

When Elliott was inducted in November 2023, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame paid tribute to the “in-demand songwriter, pathbreaking producer, label exec, and video trendsetter” who holds the record for most platinum albums by a woman rapper and who “forged new paths for women in the music industry and beyond by unapologetically owning her body, her sexual desires, and her blackness”.

In 2004, Elliott co-headlined the Verizon Ladies First tour with Beyoncé and Alicia Keys. Arguably, one song released three years earlier proved to be a turning point in the career of the Virginia-born rapper, singer-songwriter and producer: Get Ur Freak On, which would become one of the most iconic anthems in modern music.

This was no debut – Elliott had already made a bold impact with hits over two albums: Supa Dupa Fly (1997) and Da Real World (1999), as well as penning songs for R&B stars such as Aaliyah and SWV with her long-time friend, producer and collaborator, Timbaland – but it was a gamechanger. From its opening notes, the track was fantastically irrepressible: the six-note melody played on a Punjabi one-stringed tumbi; the impulsive tabla percussion; Elliott’s vivacious Southern flow (“I know you dig the way I sw-sw-switch my style”). In 2001, it felt like a thrilling shock to the system; countless plays, remixes (and multi-genre covers) later, Get Ur Freak On still sounds utterly electrifying.

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Switching things up had definitely been Elliott’s intention. By then in her late 20s, she was already a savvy businesswoman, had founded her own offshoot (The Goldmind) from major label Elektra, and was conscious of the industry pressure surrounding her next move. There was also a sense that while Timbaland’s distinctive productions were proving widely influential, they weren’t yet getting their mainstream due.

In a 2001 Vibe feature (written by Marc Weingarten), Elliott explained that: “I wanted to do what everybody else is scared to do.” She and Timbaland had actually created Get Ur Freak On as an impromptu late addition for what would be her third album Miss E… So Addictive; first, though, she intended to let the track “marinate in the clubs for a while, get a street buzz going”. This buzz would blossom into a crossover storm; Get Ur Freak On channelled serious hip-hop caché, worldly flavours, and an instant, all-encompassing pop appeal, as Elliott insisted: “It could be about dancing, the bedroom, whatever. You’re cleaning your house? Get your freak on!”

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