2019 has been a great year for Missy Elliott as she keeps bagging accolades. The award-winning and multi-platinum selling musician and songwriter on Saturday added to her impressive and enviable list of achievements after she received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
This historic feat makes her the first female rapper to receive an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.
“This year’s honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring global impact,” the institution wrote in a statement when they announced the recipients in March.
The tearful Dr. Missy Elliott shared her excitement of being conferred with such an honor at the ceremony and also shared some words of encouragement to the graduating class of 2019.
“There will be ups and downs, prepare for that but don’t give up, and I know you may hear that all the time but if I had given up long time ago I wouldn’t be standing here today,” she said. “As long as you are breathing, it is never too late. Don’t forget that. You have come too far to quit.”
The “Get Ur Freak On” rapper also shared her excitement on Twitter encouraging her fans to create their own lanes and expressing gratitude to Berklee College while dancing and showing the certificate.
Born Melissa Arnette Elliott on July 1, 1971 in Virginia, the five-time Grammy Award winner grew up in extreme poverty and hardship. She was a victim of domestic abuse by her father and was molested by a cousin when she was 8.
“Once, he pulled a gun on us and forced us both outside naked. He was crazy like that. I lived in constant fear. I had friends but I never stayed at anyone’s house because I was scared that I would come home and find my mother dead. I remember seeing my mother crouched in the corner with her arm out of its socket. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about it all,” she said in a past interview.
When she was 14, they ran away from her father, heading up to Hodges Ferry neighborhood of Portsmouth, Virginia.
In Portsmouth, Missy formed Fayze (later named Sista), a music group with her friends, with Tim ‘Timbaland’ Mosley as their producer. They would be noticed by DeVante Swing of Jodeci. They ended up in New York and became part of Swing Mob.
By end of 1995, the group had dispersed and Missy and Timbaland worked together on various projects including her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, in 1997. She would write for artists such as Aaliyah, 702, SWV, and many other notable award-winning musicians.
In 2011, she was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease and was forced to pause her career for a while. She made her comeback in 2015 when she performed at the Super Bowl XLIX and united with former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2016 for “This Is For My Girls,” an all-star anthem to female empowerment.
Missy also made history early this year when she became the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.