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Missy Elliott once rapped, “Just make sure you ahead of the game,” and she’s led by example when it comes to music videos—which is exactly why she’s the newest recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. The hip-hop icon has created some of the most innovative visuals of all time, and at the VMAs on Monday night (August 26), “Misdemeanor” celebrated that feat with a frenetic, career-spanning performance.
Missy’s medley of hits kicked off with a reminder that her glory days are far from over. Surrounded by silver-clad dancers, she launched into “Throw It Back,” a triumphant, confident banger she released just last week. From there, it was smash after smash after smash: “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Hot Boyz” gave way to “Get Ur Freak On,” during which Missy brought the vid’s wild jungle vibes to the stage.
In a cameo that only hardcore fans will truly appreciate, Alyson Stoner (a.k.a. the little girl from many of Missy’s early-aughts vids) took centre stage to break it down. The woman of the hour then reemerged after her umpteenth costume change for”Pass the Dutch,” and capped off the whirlwind performance with “Lose Control,” which almost certainly made everyone inside The Prudential Center do a double take.
Elliott’s performance was followed by a sweet speech from Cardi B, who revealed that the first album she ever bought was a Missy record. Cardi then praised the Video Vanguard by proclaiming, “She changed the music video art form completely with her style, humour, and unforgettable creativity… Everybody has copied Missy Elliott, even me.”
When Elliott reemerged to accept the golden Moon Person trophy, she wiped away tears while explaining why the award means so much to her.
“I have worked diligently for over two decades. And I never thought that I would be standing up here receiving this award,” she said, fittingly wearing a chain around her neck with the word “ICONIC” on it. “I want to dedicate this award to the dance community all around the world. … Y’all are the icing on the cake, y’all are the beat to the heart. I dedicate this to every dance community out there.”
Notably, Elliott returned last week with Iconology, a five-song EP that marked her first collection of new music since 2005. She’s a living legend who’s still as relevant and as fly as ever—something on full display at the pop-up Museum of Missy Elliott that hit New York City last week—and as long as she keeps getting her freak on, we’re all the better for it.
The 2019 MTV Video Music Awards have touched down at The Prudential Center in New Jersey, airing live on MTV. See the full list of winners and keep up with all of the night’s biggest VMA moments!