Melissa Arnette "Missy" Elliott was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. At the age of four, she already knew she wanted to be an entertainer when she grew up.
With record sales of over seven million in the U.S., she is the only female rapper to have six albums certified platinum by the RIAA, including one double platinum for her 2002 album Under Construction.
-----In the early 1990s, Elliott formed an R&B group, called Sista, with friends LaShawn Shellman, Chonita Coleman, and Radiah Scott. She recruited her neighborhood friend Timothy Mosley as the group's producer and began making demo tracks. In 1991, Fayze caught the attention of Jodeci member and producer DeVante Swing by performing Jodeci songs a cappella for him backstage after one of his group's concerts.
Fayze moved to New York City and signed to Elektra Records through DeVante's Swing Mob imprint, also renaming the group Sista. Elliott took Mosley — whom DeVante gave his the nickname Timbaland — and their friend Melvin "Magoo" Barcliff along with her.
All 20-plus members of the Swing Mob — among them Ginuwine, Playa, and Tweet — lived in a single two-story house in New York and were often at work on material both for Jodeci and their own projects. While Elliott wrote and rapped on Raven-Symoné's 1993 debut single, "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of," she also contributed songwriting duties, credited and uncredited, to the final Jodeci albums Diary of a Mad Band and The Show, The After Party, The Hotel.
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Timbaland and DeVante jointly produced a Sista album, entitled 4 All the Sistas Around da World in 1994. Though videos were released for the original and remix versions of the single "Brand New," the album was shelved and never released. One of the group's tracks, "It's Alright" featuring Craig Mack, did however make the cut on the soundtrack of the 1995 motion picture Dangerous Minds. But by the end of 1995, Swing Mob had folded and many of its members dispersed; Elliott, Timbaland, Magoo, Ginuwine, and Playa remained together and collaborated on each others' records for the rest of the decade.
After leaving Swing Mob, Elliott and Timbaland worked together as a songwriting/production team, crafting tracks for acts including SWV and 702, but the most notable of them was Aaliyah. The pair wrote and produced nine tracks for Aaliyah's second album, One in a Million, among them the hit singles "If Your Girl Only Knew," "One in a Million," "Hot Like Fire," and "4 Page Letter." Elliott contributed background vocals and/or guest raps to nearly all of the tracks on which she and Timbaland worked. One in a Million went double-platinum and made stars out of the production duo.
Elliott and Timbaland continued to work together for other artists, later creating hits for artists such as Total ("What About Us," in 1997, Nicole Wray, ("Make It Hot," and Destiny's Child, "Get on the Bus," Ciara, Lil 'Mo, as well as one final hit for Aaliyah, "I Care 4 U" before her death in 2001.
-----Elliott and Timbaland focus on an old school sound, utilizing many old school rap and funk samples, such as Run DMC's "Peter Piper" and Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus" (in "Work It" and "Gossip Folks," respectively). Elliott's fourth album, 2002's Under Construction, included the aforementioned singles "Work It," Elliott's second biggest hit to date, and the successful duet with Ludacris, "Gossip Folks."
Elliott is known for a series of hits and diverse music videos, including "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," "Hot Boyz," "Get Ur Freak On," "One Minute Man," "Work It," "Pass That Dutch," and "Lose Control." In addition, she has worked extensively as a songwriter and producer for other artists, both alone and with her fellow producer and childhood friend Timbaland, with whom she received her first production credit on R&B singer Ginuwine's 1996's album Ginuwine...the Bachelor.
In June 2011, Elliott told People Magazine that her absence from the music industry was due to an autoimmune disorder known as Graves disease. She experienced severe symptoms from the condition, and explained that she could not even hold a pen up to write songs. After treatment, her symptoms have stabilized and she has announced that she would like to get back to her career.