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YouTube- Missy Elliott

Ahead Of Her Time: Examining Missy Elliott’s Genius Music Videos

"...Just make sure you're ahead of the game."

The coveted Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award is given to an artist at the MTV Video Music Awards, and it highlights the recipient’s achievement in music and film. In this decade alone, superstars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Rihanna and Pink were given the coveted honor, and this year’s Vanguard Award recipient is multi-hyphenate Jennifer Lopez.

There is one musician whose eye-popping visuals and catalogue of hits are one in the same, however, she is seemingly overlooked by major corporations and big name award shows despite setting the blueprint for many artists. We hate to sound like a broken record, but if anyone truly deserves the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, it’s Melissa Arnette Elliott.

For decades, Missy Elliott has written for some of the biggest names in the game, cranked out massive hits of her own, and of course, changed the landscape for music videos as we know it. It’s a crying shame that the person who fits the honor’s description to a T has not been recognized.

After careful observations of Missy’s iconic videos and the videos of the last few Vanguard winners, we’ve concluded Missy is overwhelmingly overqualified for the award, due to the fact that she’s light years ahead of the game. From costumes and makeup, choreography, visual effects and futuristic, forward-thinking, Missy showed us time and time again that there are no bounds when it comes to her creativity.

If these artists can win MTV’s honor by utilizing these tactics, there’s absolutely no reason why Missy shouldn’t have won this years ago. Take a look at some of the hallmarks of Missy’s videos that Vanguard winners of yore have also implemented below.

The Looks

When you watch a Missy Elliott video, you know you’re going to get standout looks. She has continued to wow us with over-the-top, yet always en vogue style and makeup. Her metallic eyelid makeup in the “Sock It To Me” video? Vanguard winners Beyonce, Britney Spears and J. Lo have featured a similarly striking eye look in their videos as well (“Haunted,” “Toxic,” and “Get Right,” respectively).

Rihanna and Lopez received Vanguard Awards off of their memorable visuals such as “Where Have You Been” and “Waiting For Tonight.” In those videos, the beauties are adorned in facial and body rhinestones, a look that Misdemeanor rocks in the afrofuturistic “She’s A B***h” video, released in mid-1999.

Next, there’s the fashion. Who could forget the moment when she made trash bags chic in the iconic visual for “I Can’t Stand The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)?” Then, there’s the straight jacket-themed look from her 2005 video for “Teary Eyed.” Bad Gal Rihanna also capitalized on the asylum look and motif for the “Disturbia” video, off of her Good Girl Gone Bad album.

We’re not sayin’, but...

The Moves

No one sets the bar for performance quite like Missy. Thanks to her choreographers through the years such as Hi-Hat and Sean Bankhead, and her own personal admiration for dancers, Miss E.’s moves have always been ‘so addictive,’ and clearly, so ahead of many other artists.

While MJ pretty much set the blueprint for dancing in suits thanks to “Smooth Criminal,” Missy’s “Hit Em Wit Da Hee” visual did much to preserve the look and the sharp choreography, while also giving it a modern-day flair. Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” and “Suit And Tie,” as well as Britney Spears’ “Me Against The Music,” and J. Lo’s “Get Right” and “Hold It, Don’t Drop It” also feature suit and fedora-clad dancers getting in formation.

In “She’s A B***h,” Missy and her dancers perform intricate choreo on a platform submerged in water. Other videos featuring dancers battling the elements while shakin’ a tailfeather include Beyonce’s “Baby Boy” and Britney’s “Work B***h.”

Dancing majorettes were a huge part of Beyonce’s iconic Coachella performance this past spring. However, Missy Elliott highlighted a bevy of stand dancers (in gold lamé leotards nonetheless) years ago in her video for “We Run This.”

It also must be pointed out that we haven’t seen any Irish-step/Riverdancing in a hip-hop music video since Missy’s “Pass That Dutch.”

“She loves having a dance element, so we always find new ways to do innovative things around dance,” Dave Meyers, her frequent music video director, said about the inclusion of the Riverdance sequence. “When she said Riverdance, in my mind I went to the country and I said, 'What about cornstalks?' because I was reading a script at the time called Scarecrow."

We’re not sayin’, but...

The Effects

Thanks to direction from frequent collaborators Dave Meyers and Hype Williams, Missy’s videos continued to raise the bar in terms of wacky, innovative camera effects.

The timeless fish-eye effect in “I Can’t Stand The Rain” has been seen in Rihanna’s “S&M,” Beyonce’s “7/11” and Pink’s “Get The Party Started.” Dave Meyers actually shot the latter video, which is likely why the effect was used.

Also, take note of the isolated, stop-motion video effect used in “Beep Me 911” that music video lovers can find in Bey’s “Sorry” and “Countdown” and “Blow,” and Rih’s “Disturbia.”

There were also some massive explosions in the “Teary Eyed” video, an effect also utilized in Bey’s “Diva,” Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around...Comes Around,” and Pink’s “Funhouse.” Additionally, JT uses a ninja-style flying and flipping SFX in his “Cry Me A River” visual, which was seen in his “Bounce” collaborator Missy’s 1998 video, “Hit Em Wit Da Hee.”

“4 My People” features an effect where words are highlighted and written on screen as Missy spits them. Vanguard winners Kanye West and Rihanna have used a similar effect in their visuals for “All Of The Lights,” “Good Life” (West), “You Da One” and “Rude Boy” (Rih).

It’s also worth addressing that Missy’s video for “Ching-A-Ling” was the first 3D music video created by a woman (Nas’ 3D “Nastradamus” video was released 10 years earlier, making it the first video to ever use the effect).

We’re not sayin’, but…

The Futurism

Missy lives in the year 3008, and her mind and vision for her videos make her eons ahead of her contemporaries. Missy’s “Lady Marmalade” collaborator Pink may possess the athletic ability to perform upside-down, however, we’ve got to point out that “Teary Eyed” featured upside-down choreography... in straight jackets nonetheless.

Despite Missy’s thinking-outside-of-the-box approach to her career, the ‘99s and the 2000’s were all about the box aesthetic in music videos. In “She’s A B***h,” the asymmetrical, brightly colored room that Missy raps in is one of the vibrant video’s hallmarks. Justin Timberlake is also no stranger to dancing in neon-tinged rooms, as displayed in “Let Me Talk To You/My Love” and “Rock Your Body.” Pink’s “Most Girls” and Lopez’s “Play” also feature a similar box setting for their dancing and singing sections.

Then, we can’t discuss Missy being a forward-thinking gal without noting her “Sock It To Me” costume, which looks seemingly like the current G-Mail logo.

Three thousand. And. Eight.

Whether Missy Elliott was a direct influence for these music videos or otherwise, the proof is in the pudding. All in all, we need to give our legends the respect they deserve while they’re still here to thank us, and MTV will hopefully salute Missy with a Video Vanguard honor in the near future because her acceptance performance would surely shake the stage. Raising the bar, pushing the envelope and being at the forefront of the game is exactly what Missy has done her entire career, and it’s exactly what someone who is classified as a “vanguard” is known to do.

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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