WOWEE ZOWEE (19)
May 9, 2018
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the subject of our favorite albums of the Nineties (1994–2003). A new installment in this series will appear each Wednesday during 2018.
SUPA DUPA FLY | MISSY “MISDEMEANOR” ELLIOTT | 1997
My first memory of Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly isn’t of a rhythm or a melody or a lyric, but of an image. In the opening shot of the video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” Elliott stands with her back to the camera, dressed in what looks like a Hefty bag. The sight of her like that was a shock to the system.
The last time television had channeled a black woman’s body together with a plastic bag was a little over decade earlier in news coverage about Tawana Brawley, a fifteen year old girl who was found inside a garbage bag, smeared in dog shit and covered racial slurs. The courts found that Brawley’s story did not hold up, but another horrific tale emerged: that she had done this to herself in order to protect herself from being beaten by her stepfather for having stayed out too late.
Now here was Elliott at center frame — a star-maker now making her own star turn — a bag tied around her neck. All we hear is the sound of her exhaling, in pleasure or boredom or exhaustion. A few seconds later the track begins, and Elliot’s singing into the camera and wearing the now-famous inflatable bag-suit that hides her body while at the same time making her appear larger than life.
Me, I’m Supa Fly
Supa Dupa Fly
That was the summer of 1997. Twenty years later almost to the day, the brilliant essayist Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah profiled Elliott for Elle magazine. About the suit, the mogul said:
Although I am shy, I was never afraid to be a provocative woman. The outfit was a symbol of power.
Genius is an overused word, extended too often to too many for achievements that are in the end too limited, limiting — but how else to describe Elliott, an artist whose vision in that moment (and there have been so many more that followed) entwined garbage and glamor and pleasure and pain and power and elegance for an iconic track that still twenty years later moves bodies to dance, to find joy and release in the beats of her making?
WOWEE ZOWEE: Stephanie Burt on UNISEX | Anindita Basu Sempere on UNDER THE PINK | Mark Kingwell on DUMMY | Bill Nericcio on AMOR PROHIBIDO | Sherri Wasserman on HIPS AND MAKERS | Mimi Lipson on THANK YOU | John Overholt on BEN FOLDS FIVE | Jordan Ellenberg on GET LOST | Chelsey Johnson on PERSONAL BEST | Marilyn Snell on MAXINQUAYE | Dan Fox on DIFFERENT CLASS | Devin McKinney on IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER | Alice Boone on MTV UNPLUGGED (ALICE IN CHAINS) | Rob Wringham on SPICE | Joe Alterio on BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE | Jason Loeffler on SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS | Rick Pinchera on EITHER/OR | Josh Glenn on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | Jennifer Krasinski on SUPA DUPA FLY | Sara Ryan on DIG ME OUT | Luc Sante on MEZZANINE | Molly Wright Steenson on I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE | Franklin Bruno on ENGLAND MADE ME | Michael Campochiaro on IS THIS DESIRE? | Adrienne Crew on CALIFORNICATION | Drew Daniel on I SEE A DARKNESS | Veda Hille on THE SOFT BULLETIN | Vanessa Berry on TEENAGE SNUFF FILM | Tom Kipp on GET SKINTIGHT | David Hirmes on DOPETHRONE | John Hilgart on YORK BLVD. | Deborah Wassertzug on JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT | Adam McGovern on INVINCIBLE SUMMER | Brian Berger on TIRED SOUNDS OF… | Michael Grasso on MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN | Jen Collins on HURRAH | Flourish Klink on THE TEACHES OF PEACHES | Judith Zissman on TALLAHASSEE | Lauren Oliver on SOUND-DUST | Jason Cohen on IS THIS IT | Matthew De Abaitua on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN | Jenny Davidson on TIME (THE REVELATOR) | Crystal Durant on LIVE THROUGH THIS | Gordon Dahlquist on GARBAGE | Erin M. Routson on WASHING MACHINE | Carl Wilson on TEMPTING | Jessamyn West on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS | Kaleb Horton on STREETCORE | Tom Nealon on BAZOOKA TOOTH | Erik Davis on DOPESMOKER | David Levine on FEVER TO TELL | Deb Chachra on MASS ROMANTIC.
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