Missy Elliott Is This Year’s Most Surprising Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee

missy elliott holding a microphone while dancing during a stage performance
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It’s not gossip, folks—Missy Elliott is on her way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Cleveland-based museum announced Wednesday that the 51-year-old hip-hop icon is a class of 2023 inductee in her first year of eligibility.

One of seven performers recognized this year, Elliott is a four-time Grammy winner known for hits like “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It” and is one of the highest-selling female rappers of all time. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified all six of her studio albums platinum or higher.

Although her inclusion among rock ’n’ roll greats—as well as that of fellow 2023 inductee Willie Nelson—might seem odd at first glance, it’s reflective of the genre- and gender-inclusive trends that have surfaced in recent Hall classes.

Hip-Hop and Country Breakthroughs

With Elliott’s selection, this is the third consecutive year a hip-hop artist has been chosen in their first time on the ballot and in their first year of hall eligibility, which is at least 25 years after the artist’s first commercial release. This is significant because, according to the Detroit Free Press, there have only been 22 artists across all genres with the distinction. The other two hip-hop musicians were Jay-Z in 2021 and Eminem in 2022.

“So if there’s a throughline we’re seeing, it shows the power of hip-hop music culture now, as if we didn’t know it already, as far as how quickly these artists are being recognized on the first ballot,” John Sykes, chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, told Variety.

willie nelson waving to the crowd during a performance
Willie Nelson is the second country artist in as many years to be voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.Getty Images

The additions of Nelson, 90, this year and Dolly Parton in 2022 could signal a similar breakthrough for country artists. Parton notably requested her nomination be revoked last year because she felt she had not “earned the right,” but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation disagreed and kept her on the ballot.

Even with Parton and Nelson, the list of primarily country artists that have received induction is small, with Jimmie Rodgers (inducted in 1986), Hank Williams (in 1987), and Johnny Cash (in 1992) being the most notable.

Female artists are also getting more recognition from the hall. With the additions of Elliott, Sheryl Crow, and Kate Bush in 2023, seven women or female-led bands have been inducted among the performers category over the last two years.

Who Else Is in the 2023 Class?

george michael holding a microphone during a performance
George Michael, seen performing in London in 1988, is part of the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class.Getty Images

Joining Elliott, Nelson, Bush, and Crow in the performers group are George Michael, Rage Against the Machine, and The Spinners.

Bush has surged in popularity after her 1985 single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was featured in the fourth season of the Netflix series Stranger Things in 2022. Meanwhile, Rage Against the Machine, known for songs like “Killing in the Name,” “Guerrilla Radio,” and “Bulls on Parade,” broke through in its fifth time on the ballot.

In the Musical Excellence category, the Hall of Fame Committee also welcomes singer Chaka Khan, producer Al Kooper, and lyricist Bernie Taupin, who famously worked with Elton John. Guitarist Link Wray and hip-hop legend DJ Kool Herc are Musical Influence selections, while Soul Train host Don Cornelius is set to receive the Ahmet Ertegun Award, given to industry professionals who have had a major influence on the development and growth of rock and music that has impacted youth culture.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place November 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Who Didn’t Make the Cut?

The seven nominees on the general ballot that weren’t selected include: A Tribe Called Quest, Iron Maiden, Joy Division/New Order, Cyndi Lauper, Sound Garden, The White Stripes, and Warren Zevon.