Timbaland Talks About Missy Elliott’s ‘Supa Dupa Fly’s 20 Years Later
Missy Elliott invented the future. At least that’s what it felt like in the summer of 1997 when the mastermind dropped her debut album Supa Dupa Fly. With the bracing production of her trusted partner in creation, Timbaland, the two birthed a sonic anthology of black experimentalism and soul. Missy’s boldness sprawls into every crevice of the LP as she reimagines every genre trope you could ever think of while maintaining her own sense of self.
Timeless jams like “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”,” and “Sock It 2 Me” have an enriching pulse that still echoes 20 Years Later. For the 20th Anniversary of Supa Dupa Fly, The FADER spoke to some of her closest friends and collaborators about Missy’s legacy, how they felt when they first heard the album, and what its impact means to music and culture after two decades.
Me and Missy never payed attention to what others were doing. We just did what was in our spirit and in our soul. We loved hip-hop and R&B — the music itself — but we weren’t looking to what was popular or what was going on. We just did our thing. Chemistry isn’t really developed — it’s usually there. With me and [Missy], it was there from day one. You can’t really develop chemistry. You can develop a way to do great music, but there’s great music and then there’s special music. What me and Missy do is special. It’s like when you meet your soulmate — Missy is my soulmate in music.
We were just two kids from Virginia that loved music and couldn’t wait to have a real studio to really do it the right way. Missy always had a vision — she had a major vision. We both had visions but in different ways: She had a vision to entertain, and I had a vision to get my sound out into the world. When you look at it, it’s like we both started from scratch. That’s how our visions came together. We were both doing it together. Like, ‘Hey, I wanna do this. We need to do this together. I’m gonna do this on top of that and we’re gonna bring it together to make it a storm.’
We just wanted to make a record — not necessarily all these bells and whistles that come with the industry. We really wanted to put something out into the world and see how they responded to it. We new we had something special but we were just having fun in the moment. Coming from Virginia and trying to get your sound out there, you had to be great to be heard. You couldn’t be mediocre. What really stands out to me about recording Supa Dupa Fly now is how much fun we were having. It wasn’t about radio, it wasn’t about Is this a hit? It was just Ooh this feels good. This is jumpin’. We can’t wait to play this for our friends in the neighborhood. We didn’t know that it would be big across the world but we knew it was different and we knew that we had something that could be valuable to the world.
The studio was like our playground. You work but sometimes it’s about looking at other things, watching videos, having conversations. A day in the studio was more like a day outside on the block. With “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” I was just going through sounds and I found that and she said, “Keep playing that.” Missy liked to hear me as I created. She always wanted me to do the bounce in front of her because she’d start writing as she’s bouncing. Then she’d kick me out when she’d go record it. I’ve never seen her record on the mic. People wanna perfect their craft, and Missy has many personalities, so she likes to be by herself when she does that — just her and the engineer.
Then I would go back and add this here or take something away there. I was like Alfred and she was like Batwoman. I was the guy supplying the sounds and she had all these friends and the superpowers to make it what it was. It didn’t really hit me until later on like, Wow, we somebody. I treated it as a clubhouse, like our team. I didn’t look at it like, Oh, snap. We in the real world. I didn’t really understand that it was a business. It welcomed me into the business. Coming from Virginia, we didn’t know a lot about that. It wasn’t city life, we didn’t have big buildings, we didn’t have certain things.
I was kind of a lazy kid at that time, but I had a gift and wanted to learn more. We made music, that’s what we wanted to do. We didn’t realize how impactful the music was, but I think it’s best that we didn’t do what everyone else did because our sound still lives today. I think we’ll go down in history. Missy was ways like, “It’s gotta be special.” Her whole thing was about feeling and making people move. She always looked to make something that was special — not just a regular song. And I think all of that criticism that she put into her music paid off because she created a style that will probably never die.