The Supa Dupa Fly Afrofuturism Of Missy Elliot
Missy Elliot’s unique sound and visuals portray a deep narrative rooted in Afrofuturism.
When you think of Missy Elliott, you probably envision her iconic, often bizarre music videos that span decades—from ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’ to ‘WTF (Where They From).
Drawing on themes from science fiction and Afrocentricity, we explore the ways in which Missy Elliot’s music is an expression of Afrofuturism.
What Is Afrofuturism?
Afrofuturism is a movement in music, literature, and art that combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, and Afrocentricity often exploring the theme of Blackness in the African diaspora.
The term Afrofuturism was coined in the early 1990s by Mark Dery, who wrote one of the first critical essays on the subject.
In his essay “Black to the Future,” Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” to describe the work of African-American artists who were using science-fiction and fantasy tropes to explore issues of race, identity, and culture.
Since then, Afrofuturism has become a broad and diverse movement with a wide range of practitioners.
Some notable Afrofuturist artists include Sun Ra, George Clinton, Janelle Monae, and of course Missy Elliot.
Missy Elliot’s Work As Afrofuturism
The music video for Missy’s first pop single “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” is probably the most obvious example of Afrofuturism on display in Missy Elliott’s catalogue.
The ‘Rain’ video features Elliott wearing a metallic silver jumpsuit and sunglasses, and dancing in a futuristic, industrial setting. The video’s visual effects and production design have a science fiction-inspired aesthetic while the lyrics of the song explore themes of technology and innovation.
Another example of Afrofuturism in Missy Elliott’s work is the music video for “Work It”.
The ‘Work It’ video features Missy Elliott wearing a black bodysuit with a robotic exoskeleton and performing complex dance routines alongside a group of dancers dressed in futuristic, robotic costumes.
‘Work It’s’ visual effects and production design also have a science fiction-inspired aesthetic, and the lyrics of the song explore themes of self-empowerment and technological advancement.
Overall, Missy Elliott’s music and visual aesthetics often incorporate elements of Afrofuturism, exploring themes of technology, innovation, and the future through a Black, feminist lens.
For this reason, Missy Elliot has changed the landscape of rap and hip hop music with her Afrofuturist vision and message.
Missy Elliot is unapologetically herself, using Afrofuturism to expand her own Artistic horizons as well as those of Hip Hop Music as a genre.
Ultimately Missy’s career and contributions will be considered important in the evolution of Afrofuturism in the same vein as other important Afrofuturist Hip Hop Artists like Busta Rhymes.
Missy Elliot will also be remembered as an important female Afrofuturist whose contributions will also be regarded as important as those of other female Afrofuturists in the world of music such as Angelique Kidjo.