In 2015, Missy Elliott graced the Super Bowl stage with a surprise performance joining Katy Perry for the Super Bowl XLIV halftime show. Three years later, the Virginia native returns to the big screen, but this time, she will be appearing in Mountain Dew and Doritos’ joint Super Bowl commercial, alongside hip-hop legend Busta Rhymes and actors Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman.
The commercial’s teaser finds Busta preparing the Game of Thrones star for team Doritos, whereas Missy trains Morgan Freeman to do battle, while representing Mountain Dew. The Super Bowl always boasts some of the most intricate commercials of the year, as the event seems to bring the best out of the league’s sponsors.
Billboard caught up with the Grammy-winning artist to recount her nerve-racking Super Bowl performance in front of 114 million viewers, reminisce on memorable times hanging with Aaliyah, and even try to get confirmation that a Missy Elliott album is in the works.
Billboard: How did you get involved with Mountain Dew and their Super Bowl commercial?
Missy Elliott: The people at Mountain Dew called. First of all, when you got [Peter Dinklage] and [Morgan Freeman] with [Busta Rhymes] who is turning that down? I wanted to be a part of this history right here. That was an epic moment, hearing those names together.
What can you tell us about the commercial?
I can’t really tell you about the commercial yet. You’re going to have to wait until next weekend. Just know that [Morgan Freeman] and [Peter Dinklage] are in training right now. Busta Rhymes is training [Dinklage] and I’m training [Freeman]. We just want to make sure everybody’s tuned in.
Were you involved with any of the writing or directing for the commercial?
Nah, not for this one. Normally, I am a person that is usually in the process when it comes to my videos. They already had that done. I may add, I wish we hadn’t, because it’s dope.
What do you remember most about your surprise performance at the Super Bowl back in 2015 with Katy Perry?
I remember having an anxiety attack. The night before, actually. I didn’t know how many people really watched the [Super Bowl] and when they told me, I started freaking out. There was one step I had to jump down from and I was afraid I would trip. The whole time I was like, “Please God, let me get down this one step.” That I still remember — once I got down that step, I don’t remember anything until the end. That one little step had my anxiety up high.
Do you have a rooting interest for the New England Patriots or Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s game?
Nah. You’re not going to get me caught up out here with people mad at me. I don’t have a favorite. Whoever wins, wins.
Are you looking forward to seeing Justin Timberlake perform at halftime?
Yeah, definitely. He’s got hit after hit. I heard the first single [off his album]. When [Justin Timberlake], Timbaland and Pharrell get together, you already know what it is.
You recently paid tribute to Aaliyah on social media for her birthday. All these years out, what do you find yourself remembering most about her? What do you believe her legacy in music is?
It’s clear that Aaliyah has left a major impact because we’re talking [about her] all these years later. When a birthday comes or the [date] of her passing, it’s always trending. You always see artists who are dressing like her or being honest and admitting she inspired their style of music. It goes to show you how ahead of her time she was. The music that she created doesn’t even sound dated. We could only just imagine what she would be doing now. She’d be out of here and untouchable.
Aaliyah so many people LOVE your Style & Music TIL this day! I wish they all got a chance to meet you to see how CARING you were to EVERYONE you met! I CAN STILL HEAR YOU LAUGH & us cracking up all the time & me you @Timbaland joking–we MISS YOU so much!–but I know you are surrounded by ANGELS and yall dancing doing a Dope routine a sick 8 count for your BDAY———— WE LOVE U from The Supa friends! and YOUR FANS! Prayers for mama DIANE & your bro RASHAD—-??
Is there a story you always come back to?
There’s so many. I do remember a time that we made a bet who was going to wear a dress first to an award show. I remember us joking about it, and I didn’t think she was going to do it. I wasn’t wearing no dress, but I wasn’t planning on losing the bet. I ended up losing the bet, because she wore the dress.
On a positive side, what she taught me I’ll never forget — me, [Aaliyah] and [Timbaland] got outfits for another award show and we really put our thought into these Pony outfits we had. We really thought she was going to win, because she was nominated for a few things. Me and [Timbaland] were heated and [Aaliyah] said, “Don’t be mad. I’m just happy to be nominated.” And that just stuck with me forever. Especially when you got that many nominations and [Aaliyah] was undeniably popping, but she was just that sweet. [Aaliyah] was like, “I don’t have to win. Just being nominated is enough for me,” and that stuck with me.
Your friendship with Mary J. Blige goes way back. What are your thoughts on her receiving her own Hollywood Star, as well as receiving two Oscar nominations?
Me and Mary J. Blige go back since 1993. I don’t call that a friendship, we have a “sistership.” I look at it and say, “t’s crazy how the stars align, and God’s timing” — because although I feel Mary already should’ve got these things, it’s still perfect timing. I’m just happy for her. She’s worked hard, and is the blueprint for many R&B artists.
She is one of the artists I would say wasn’t scared to take risks, and even when Mary J. Blige decided to start singing the happy records — because we’re used to the records where she would say, “I’m down and crying, but I’m not crying anymore.”
It took people a minute, but the fact she stepped out and wasn’t afraid to say, “I don’t feel like that anymore, so I’m going to do this.” [Mary J. Blige] dictated what’s hot to us. These things are well-deserved and I’m happy to see her stretching out beyond music with her acting. I’m proud of her.
.@maryjblige Over 24 years of sistership I wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world I’ve watched you at your most ratchet moments—- to your Growth & Strength as a women—- I love you & May this be the best BIRTHDAY of the all! You are the BLUEPRINT for many!——–?? pic.twitter.com/tzISZw5AKJ
— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) January 11, 2018
Do you currently mentor any younger artists?
I’ve mentored many artists. I’m always on Twitter or Instagram chopping it up with artists. Some will hit me and feel discouraged, and I know what that’s like. It’s always good talking to those artists, and letting them know you’ve been there. It’s one thing to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do, but if you haven’t been there, they’re not trying to hear that.
When you can say, “Hey, there’s times when I wanted to quit or have been depressed.” Then, they feel like you’ve been through that too and overcame those obstacles. It’s not just artists the world may know of, but it’s up-and-comers as well.
How did you end up on Amine’s “REDMERCEDES” remix?
He’s dope. They actually reached out to me and I was like, “Yo, okay, I like this kid.” When I jump on something, I have to see something in them that I like and see some potential. [Amine] and A$AP Ferg are two for sure.
I saw you tweet about how we wait until it’s too late to celebrate legends.
I just think that we get caught up in who’s relevant. Then, when an artist passes away and we get a chance to look back on all the things they’ve done and all the records they broke. We live so much in the now and we forget that until they pass and they start running [tributes] on television. Everybody’s on that wave saying like, “Oh my God. I didn’t know Prince played all these instruments,” or even “I didn’t know Michael Jackson owned all of this.” All of these things happen when these people go away.
I feel like you have living legends, and they should be around to celebrate with everyone else. It shouldn’t be after their passing — and we have to get out of that moment. Those people are the backs that we stand on. We have to do that more, instead of waiting. That also allows that artist to pick who they want to represent their music. You ever see tributes where you’re like, “Oh my goodness, this person messed that tribute up?”
What projects are you currently working on and is there a release date for your next album?
Mine, my own [project]. I never tell [release dates]. Do you understand how ruthless those fans are out there if you don’t drop when you say? You’re trying to get me stoned! [Laughs.]