By Jonathan Ringen, photo by Ruven Afanador. A couple of weeks before the world will get to see it, Missy Elliott stops by the Manhattan headquarters of her label, Atlantic, to give staff a sneak peek of the video for her hypnotically percussive, Pharrell Williams-produced new single, “WTF (Where They From),” the latest in a series of highly conceptual, future-shock clips that revolutionized the visual language of pop music. It’s also the 44-year-old hip-hop legend’s first real single in 10 years. But the wait is going to be just a tiny bit longer. “I’m going to tinkle real quick,” Elliott says cheerfully, with just a hint of a Southern accent. “Won’t take me a minute.”
When she returns, her cousin Corte Ellis, a songwriter, pulls a MacBook out of a rolling bag and hands it to the MC. She cues up the clip, and “WTF” roars through the Godzilla-scale speakers. Onscreen, a dizzying array of imagery and superb choreography flies by: Elliott in a disco-ball jumpsuit, Elliott leading a squad of zombie dancers and, coolest of all, Elliott and Williams transformed into extremely funky marionettes. “You must be real important to have her show it to you,” co-director Dave Meyers, who has collaborated with Elliott since 2001’s “Get Ur Freak On,” later says to me. “She has had that shit on lockdown!”
Photos by Kevin Mazur & Mike Windle. Music’s biggest names joined a number of Hollywood stars and athletes in Los Angeles for a concert about the state of race relations in the United States. Recorded on Wednesday at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, Shining A Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America aired Friday night on the A&E family of networks. The concert was organized to bring awareness to acts of race-related violence and systemic racism following the recent high profile deaths of black men and women. The event also sought donations to the United Way.
This year’s Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston, SC, in which nine black church members were gunned down by a white supremacist, took center stage at the event. Members of the Emanuel AME congregation were honored by Pharrell Williams, who sang for the church. The show opened with a performance from Bruce Springsteen and John Legend. The pair performed a duet of Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots),” along with Tom Morello.
Ed Sheeran & Pharrell
Legend and Springsteen were followed by performances from Pink, Sia, Pharrell Williams, Eric Church, Zac Brown, Alicia Keys, Sting, and Nick Jonas, among others. Rapper Nicki Minaj recited the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise.” Actor Morgan Freeman also spoke at the event, telling the audience that music is not be enough to heal the wounds of racism and injustice. “Throughout this nation’s history, from the brutal days of slavery to the long march to civil rights until today, music has been there to help us cross that bloody river to the other side,” said Freeman.
Missy Elliott said she was cleaning her house, days after performing with Katy Perry at the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show, when Pharrell called and urged her again to join him in the studio. “Who turns down Pharrell?” the rapper said in a new interview with i-D. “He flew me to L.A. 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.'” That beat became Elliott’s ferocious, futuristic single, “WTF (Where They From)” which arrived 2 weeks ago. Despite the lengthy gap between her most recent singles (2012’s Timbaland collaborations “9th Inning” and “Triple Threat“) and LP (2005’s The Cookbook), Missy sounded as fresh, dexterous and intergalactic as ever. But the rapper acknowledged some initial trepidation while making “WTF.”
Perhaps you first stumbled across Missy Elliott via 1997’s iconic The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly] video. Maybe you were one of those tweeting about the ‘hot new female rapper’ who appeared onstage with Katy Perry at this year’s Superbowl. Either way, your first impression of Melissa Elliott would have been — should have been — immediate, mind-blowing, brilliant. Dispensing with any sort of pre-existing or accepted ideas of what artistry is and what it looks like, Miss Misdemeanour has been at the forefront of offering an progressive alternative to notions of beauty, femininity and creativity since her debut nearly twenty years ago.
She has rejected the idea of convention sonically, lyrically and visually and, during a time where artists love to bare all — physically and metaphorically — Missy stands as a singular icon and iconoclast. She never took her clothes off, she never slagged anyone off, she went out of her way to avoid attention (see: the time she let Britney take one for the team at the 2003 VMA’s). She hasn’t put her name to any and every brand (apart from Adidas, a label she clearly genuinely loves). You won’t see her name on a bottle of booze, a book or bedsheets (although we’d buy them all immediately, obvs).
Photo by Cindy Ord.
Hello Missy! It feels as if you’ve almost come back a few times over the past 10 years. Why is now the right time?
Wow! Well, the times before, we were just testing the water. I tell people, when God aligns the stars, then I go. I’d most definitely say that Pharrell was the captain of the ship – he asked me to perform with him last year at the BET Awards, and then Katy Perry asked me to do the Super Bowl with her. After the Super Bowl, I think I was in shock. I was getting mad calls: “Do you see what’s goin’ on?” “Do you see what people are sayin’?” By that point I was back at my house washing dishes and vacuuming my floor! I’ve got my scarf on my head! And then Pharrell called. He said: “If you would have it, I would like to get in the studio with you.” And I was like: “This is Pharrell, am I gonna be non-busy? I’m vacuuming my floor!” So I said OK.
What sort of vacuum cleaner is it?
It’s one that you push. It’s a regular vacuum cleaner! I do regular things! When WTF dropped, my phone was blowing up – people were texting me and emailing me. People be like: “You’re not gonna have no GET-TOGETHER? No dinner?” I’m like: “I’m here WASHING MY DOGS!” They’re like: “WASHING YOUR DOGS? Don’t you see what’s happening on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook?” I’m like: “I’m washing my dogs.”
By Andres Tardio. Will the Clipse ever reunite? Pusha T. and No Malice entered the game in ’02 with Lord Willin’, serving “coke rap” over Neptunes-produced bangers. But we haven’t gotten a dose of the Clipse since 2009’s Til The Casket Drops. Naturally, the reunion question lingers. No Mal thinks about that, too. “You’re probably the first person, publicly, that I’ve said this to,” he told MTV News. “But I believe that my brother and I together can make clown soup of all of these rappers. That’s what I believe in my heart, but how can two walk together unless they agree?”
And there lies the issue that keeps the Clipse from reuniting. There isn’t a beef here, really. No Mal celebrates Pusha’s successes and the two collaborated on 2013’s “Shame The Devil,” but a full Clipse LP still seems out of reach. Still, No Mal remains hopeful. “There are different paths for different people and I believe circumstances may keep him where he’s at,” No Mal explained. “My circumstances keep me where I am. But do I have hope? I totally have hope. I’m not chasing it or forcing it, but I stand by what I just said, man.
Directed by Harrison Boyce.
Make sure to cop Yellow Claw’s Blood For Mercy on iTunes.
Following a few weeks of speculation, partners in crime adidas Originals and Pharrell Williams finally unveil the official details surrounding the BBC Stan Smith Pony Hair. Bearing 2005’s iconic “diamonds and dollar signs” print, the duo channel the era’s colorful vibes across two colorways.
The collaborative sneaker features a smooth pony hair upper alongside a full-leather tongue and lining. In addition, the kicks come equipped with a “Helmet Head” Billionaire Boys Club logo on the tongue, and a tinted translucent midsole with debossed “Floating B” logo on the heel tab.
Each pair ships with three sets of laces and a foot bed featuring anatomical artwork. Finally it comes presented in unique Billionaire Boys Club and adidas Originals co-branded packaging. The Pharrell Williams Billionaire Boys Club Stan Smith Pony Hair will be available from November 20 for 200 euros/$200 USD/160 British Pounds at Billionaire Boys Club flagship stores, online and select retailers globally.
Directed by Hunter Lyon.
— WatchTheDuck (@WatchTheDuck) November 16, 2015
Pharrell stopped by The Cruz Show to talk about his new track with Missy Elliott, WTF (Where They From). He breaks down the track and explains how the tragic death of Trayvon Martin was weaved into the production of the song.
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