Supa Dupa Fly
“I don’t make music or videos for 1997,” said Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott. “I do it for the year 2000.” The Virginia rapper and producer Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley beamed down in ’97 with the future-funk blueprint Supa Dupa Fly, providing an entirely new way for us to get our collective freak on. The pair were already some of the most forward-thinking hitmakers of the era, writing boundary-pushing, electronica-blipping avant-R&B tracks for Aaliyah, SWV, and more. But nothing could prepare the world for Elliott’s star turn—a rap-sung tangle that played like a strut through a malfunctioning robot factory, delivered by a crazysexycool funkateer dressed in inflatable garbage bags and Mega Man gear. She was already making a name with appearances on tracks by 702 and Gina Thompson, but Elliott’s debut single, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” thrust her into instant stardom. Her style on the deeply syncopated track was a throwback to the levelheaded slow-flows of EPMD. Her offbeat coughs, melodic tangents, pauses, and onomatopoeias served as gateways to pop ecstasy. Supa Dupa Fly as a whole was full of similar bouts of radical expression. The chorus of the incredibly funky “Izzy Izzy Ahh” (“Izzy-izzy-ahh-zizah-zizah-zah”) paints the line between the Afrika Bambaataa throwdowns of the past and the delirious mumble rap of the future. “Beep Me 911” flows like an R&B heartbreak song trapped in a pachinko machine. Funny, sexually aggressive, careening between sultry singing and cartoonish sound effects and laughs, hip-hop had a new avant-garde hero. For his part, Timbaland turned hip-hop production on its ear, making tracks full of chirping birds and giggles, laced with hi-hats and snares that stutter and trip in unexpected places. The mix of Timbo’s spark-spraying funk and Missy’s art-bubblegum brilliance would have a lasting influence across hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music: There’s no small number of careers built on a Timbaland production or a tweak of Missy’s ineffable style. Beenie Man’s dancehall crossover smash “Who Am I (Sim Simma)” tweaked a line in “The Rain” to wild success. Drake’s So Far Gone, the mixtape that launched him into supa dupa stardom, samples liberally from the Supa Dupa Fly ballad “Friendly Skies.” She made the album for 2000, but its effects are still being felt.