Learn from Missy E’s ‘Method’

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in Leaders & Managers

Successful music writer and performer Missy Elliott clearly has a large creative streak. But working as a producer for the stars (Whitney Houston, to name one) is what earned her reputation as an executive leader.

It’s easy to avoid taking Elliott seriously. She’s not a virtuoso. She doesn’t make grand statements. She never broods, at least not publicly. In those ways, she’s a leader like the rest of us.

“Her counterintuitive approach is looking more and more like the new conventional wisdom,” reports The New York Times, “a deceptively simple five-point program that might be called the Missy Method.” Here it is:

  1. Collaborate with other talent. In high school, Elliott befriended theproducer Timbaland, who composed avant-garde electronic beats that she turned into songs for her first CD. The team still works together, expanding to include other innovative hip-hop artists.
     
  2. Think small. Elliott delights in the details, turning out an astonishing array of beats, jokes and hooks one song at a time, instead of conceiving grand themes or story lines that inform a whole album.
     
  3. Satisfy your audience. Elliott talks about her “get nasty” approachin terms of independence and sexual assertiveness, but she’s really just giving her customers what they want: dirty jokes.
     
  4. Don’t mind imitators. The practice of “sampling” a distinctive piece of one song in another song angered Elliott at first. But now, she embraces and even caters to those who want to sample her records. And Elliott co-opted one of her biggest samplers by incorporating his work into one of her songs.
     
  5. Get over yourself. Elliott doesn’t let success go to her head. In keeping with her status as “an unskinny woman from an unhip state (Virginia),” she sidesteps the world of thousand-dollar shirts and keeps on friendly terms with her working-class listeners.


— Adapted from “How to Be a Pop Star Using the vMissy Method,” Kelefa Sanneh, The New York Times.

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