Missy Elliott said BRB before returning with WTF.
She's prominently back in the spotlight with new single "WTF (Where They From)" featuring Pharrell Williams thanks to a push from Katy Perry and the "Happy" singer. Elliott gives lengthy answers to i-D about how the (don't call it a) comeback came about.
Here's the highlights:
On the Super Bowl halftime show performance:
"I can't remember where I was, but my manager called me and said 'Would you like to do the Superbowl'? I was sat there looking at the phone like 'Did she just say the Superbowl'? I felt like, who turns down the Superbowl but then, why would I be doing the Superbowl at this point? I don't have anything out, but I'll do it. She said 'Katy Perry wants to speak to you, she wants you to perform with you'. I immediately thought that she would want me to perform Last Friday the record that we did together. So when me and Katy got on the phone, she said she was a fan of my work and that she wanted me to perform, but to perform three of my records. First of all, I can't thank her enough. A thousand thank you's wouldn't be enough. She allowed me to perform my records, on her set and she said 'If you have a new record, you should perform it, this is the time to perform it'. At the time I had some records but I didn't feel as strong about them. I said I'd rather go out there and give them the classics. She was like 'Are you sure, this will have a huge amount of viewers'. She really gave it over to me, but I decided to do the old classics. I've performed for some of the biggest crowds but the Superbowl has to be the scariest moment - besides waiting for this video to drop (laughs). That was a nervous moment for me."
Collaborating with Pharrell:
Well, Pharrell hit me. He had hit me before the Superbowl, we had performed at the BET awards [in 2014], and after the Superbowl, he hit me up like 'Yo, what are you doing?' I was basically in the house cleaning! I had gone back to my normal life. I was in the house vacumming, walking my dogs - after the Superbowl, I'm just acting normal. He said 'I'm not trying to push you, but people miss you. Do you see what happened out there? Have you seen the charts'? I think I was still in shock. It still hadn't registered. He was like 'I want to get in the studio with you.' Who turns down Pharrell? He flew me to LA and he put me up and we got in the studio and he said 'Yo! I got this crazy beat'. You know, Pharrell, he's very zen, very yoga, he's such a sweetheart. But this time, he was straight from the hood, like 'Yo, I got this crazy record for you, I already wrote my rap, I gotta get your bars now'. So he played it and once he played it, it was like 'Oh my goodness' He said 'I know you gon' kill it'. I said, 'Well, let me take it home and live with it'. When something is so hot, I don't want to just jump on it right away, I want to take it home and make sure I give it my best shot. He said 'Listen, just remember who you are. You've always been fun and animated and you have always made people want to dance. Look in the mirror so you can know who you are. It's time. It's your time.' That's how it happened (laughs). Once we did the record, I knew it was time to shoot a video. The puppet idea I had seen somebody do on the street. I held onto that idea for five years because I didn't have a record that matched that idea. So I showed Pharrell the clip I had, and he said 'You know you got to do a video for this'. Believe it or not, we have been making this video since March. The puppets themselves took two and a half, to three months to make. It was very detailed, we had people from StarTrak working on this video, so it was a lot."
The change in pop culture and if that shook her confidence to return back to music:
"Oh most definitely. Definitely. I never stopped recording, but I went through a period where… The one thing that a lot of people don't know is that for as long as I've been as artist, I've been a writer and a producer. So I've had to write and produce for other artists and then maintain my sound and myself as an artist. So all that time, I was doing Missy and also making sure I was giving all of these other artists a different sound too. That was hard for me. At first it wasn't but then when it started piling up on a plate, it was tough. A lot of people don't do this. You can count on a couple of hands probably how many artists also produce and write, both for themselves and for others and are able to be successful at both things. So I needed a break. But in that break I felt like I lost time. Then I ended up getting sick [Missy was diagnosed with Graves Disease in 2011] but then, yeah, it was a time where I felt like 'Do I still have it'? Especially when you see a whole new slew, a whole new generation of kids, come through and the music is not like how it was. I felt like, 'How do I fit in'? I'm battling. But then I never fit in! The whole time, I've never fit in! But it was still that battle. Do people still want to hear something creative and risky at this point? People might not be accepting of your music. So I battled that and I thank god for somebody like Pharrell who stayed in my ear. For him, at that time, Happy was everywhere, he didn't have to share anything with me. He said to me, 'You call me any time you feel like that, because I have went through that same thing in my life and I want to make sure I pull you up. I've been there and I know what that feels like'."
The state of music in 2015:
"I think the music industry, it's a lot of great artists out there. I must say that. Adele, she's most definitely killing the right now. I understand someone like a Rihanna. She's a superstar, I get it. Beyoncé, well she's from our era, and she's beyond that! What I love about Kanye is that he doesn't fit the mold either. He does what he feels. People might look at him like, 'Kanye at it again' (laughs), but I can respect the fact and I can tell when he does his music it's not 'I'm doing what's hot right now'. That's what I felt in the studio. So I can appreciate artists like that. People, I think they are fiending for more of that, that's why Adele could take that rest and come back. Cos that's how it used to be. She's shown people that when you've got talent, those solid fans will wait for you. So, yeah, it's a lot of great stuff out there. I mean, there's a lot of crazy stuff out there too… so…! Yeah, there's a lot of great music out there."
Read the full interview here