50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 4): Missy Elliott, Nas, DMX & De La Soul

50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 4): Missy Elliott, Nas, DMX & De La Soul

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with a legendary DJ Kool Herc party in the Bronx on August 11, 1973 commonly cited as its glorious moment of inception. To celebrate for a special edition of Music Week, we asked over 100 names – featuring everyone from Chuck D and Kanya King to top executives, broadcasters, managers, producers and more – to pick and salute one album that impacted their lives and pushed hip-hop culture forward…


Lauryn Hill may have secured the greatest number of entries altogether across her solo and group releases, but Missy Elliott had the most picks from a single catalogue, with seven people choosing her iconic albums… 


“The magic Missy Elliott created with Timbaland accompanied by epic visuals and also her style was so unexpected and so unapologetically her. She paved the way for women in the scene at the time – giving permission for all of us to follow suit!” Amy Wheatley (Columbia Records UK)

“Missy’s infectious debut gave us a first glimpse at what would prove to be one of the most creative minds in hip-hop. An incredible box of tricks that saw Missy and Timbaland flirt with the boundaries of rap and R&B with groundbreaking production and innovative rhyme patterns. Almost 30 years after its release, it plays like a greatest hits project, with hit singles Hit ’Em Wit Da Hee, Sock It 2 Me, The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) and Beep Me 911 all appearing in remarkable sequence.” Dotty (Apple Music Radio)

“For me, this album was the blueprint for total musical creativity. It was completely different from anything else in that moment, the way Missy and Timbaland sampled themselves, and took risks with more experimental sounds and lyrics. It was also my introduction to Hype Williams, and the incredible futuristic videos for the singles that just helped define an artist who was bringing something genuinely original to the scene.” Leroy Harris (Spotify UK & Ireland)

“I didn’t discover this album until a couple of years after it debuted, but it blew my mind once I did and set the bar so high for its innovative, experimental production and clever interpolation choices, including one from my cousins’ band, Musical Youth. Timbaland and Missy together? Insane. Missy Elliott is one of my all-time favourite artists. I have a deep, deep love and admiration for her music, videos and creative vision, as well as her craft as a songwriter, producer and artist. It all began with this record.” Paul Smith (Warner Chappell Music)


“This album, produced by Timbaland, has the best funky beats. Missy’s videos were so exciting and fresh, they’re so playful. The video to Work It is just full of brilliant ideas and tricks, I still love it now. Who else could have 50 Cent, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Ludacris and TLC on their album? Fingers crossed there’s a new Missy album and a UK tour at some point!” Lorna Clarke (BBC)

“As someone who grew up in a household where the music being played was people playing guitars, I thought I was destined to be an indie girl forever. Then I discovered Missy Elliott’s Under Construction album in 2002. It totally opened my ears to new sounds and a new world of discovery. The joy of this record is that it still sounds fresh today.” Nickie Owen (Universal Music UK)

“An easy decision! I was eight years old and I remember seeing that iconic album artwork everywhere I looked. The music was unapologetic and the visuals were so unique – I remember that being so exciting to me at that age. A classic and timeless album, for sure.” Preye Crooks (Robots And Humans)  



“Beautiful, melodious poetry and rap in its purest form. The producers all complement each other so the tracks flow into each other seamlessly. It’s all killer, no filler and devoid of gimmicky collabs. It’s the perfect introduction to East Coast rap and Nas is on fire.” Trevor Nelson (BBC Radio 2)

“Illmatic is my favourite hip-hop album of all time. First of all, it provokes a lot of emotion in me because it reminds me of my teenage years when I really began to understand hip-hop and fall in love with the genre. I believe it’s a seamless, classic album. It’s a reflection of Nas’ surroundings and upbringing. So many themes on the album are a reflection of people’s realities growing up in tough neighbourhoods, and I feel like Nas really painted the picture of his upbringing and life perfectly. It’s got some of the greatest ever hip-hop producers on there, which really ties it all together and makes it an incredible listen. I think that any hip-hop lover from then up to now should really listen and enjoy.” Koby ‘Post’ Hagan (GRM Daily)


“It Was Written was a formative rap project for me – I was turning 16 the summer it was released and it sounded like freedom, hope, a refusal to accept your lot in life. I was living in my own version of Street Dreams, and this album gave me the energy and guts to pursue them! And further to that, If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) with Lauryn Hill is one of the best rap collaborations of all time. Period!” Char Grant (Black Music Coalition/Babychild Music)


“Foxy Brown, AZ and Nas were, and are, rap juggernauts in their own right, but when they came together as The Firm to release The Album in 1997, they shook hip-hop to its core with their undeniable chemistry. I don’t think Foxy gets enough props for what she did for women in rap – from her pen to those ill flow patterns – and AZ’s young energy is sorely missed. Nas, however, continues to save the day.” Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson (Complex UK/Trench Magazine)


“DMX’s It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot is a special one for me, he was like nothing I’d ever heard before. His passion, storytelling, honesty and aggression, with added vulnerability, hit me as a kid and it also introduced the world to Swizz Beatz. Legend! RIP.” Alex Boateng (0207 Def Jam)


“When this trio hit the culture – alongside producer and frequent collaborator Prince Paul – they simply changed the game. De La Soul were the first group to use their artistic freedom to challenge and debunk what people thought hip-hop should and could sound like, when in fact, hip-hop is about being the truest version of yourself.” Shortee Blitz (KISS)

“I was drumming in a rock band by night and selling jeans in a high street store by day. It was during that time that my store manager played 3 Feet High And Rising. Its landscape of drum loops, Sesame Street playfulness, scratching and New York spirit blew my mind. I had never heard such an experimental free-form melting pot of creativity. Looking back, I realise it created some controversy and is an album that could never be made again. But back then, as a small-town, long-haired teenager, it introduced me to broader culture and to the vitality of hip-hop.” Kiaron Whitehead (BPI)

Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

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