Missy Elliott became the first female rapper ever inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday night and gave a tearful speech where she discussed overcoming illness to make her mark on the music industry.
The 47-year-old, who was diagnosed with Graves’ disease back in 2008, was honored by the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama and fellow female emcee Queen Latifah, who praised Elliott for her two-decade-long career in contributing hit songs for herself as well as the likes of Aaliyah, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson.
“Missy, I want to thank you for all of your trailblazing ways,” Obama said in a pre-recorded video that aired during Elliott’s induction. “Thank you not for just sharing your gift with the world, but for being an advocate for so many people out there, especially young girls who are still figuring out how to make their voices heard.”
The “Work It” rapper has been battling Graves’ disease, which is a hyperparathyroidism disorder, after revealing the cause for her absence from the music industry in an interview with PEOPLE back in June 2011, saying “you live with it for the rest of your life.”
But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming an icon and leading lady of hip hop.
“I am thankful,” she said at Thursday’s induction ceremony.
“Every time I come up to a podium … even with all the work that I’ve done, I don’t know — and I’m assuming it’s just God — I don’t know why I am here,” she tearfully said to applause from the audience. “I want to say one thing to the writers, to the upcoming writers, ‘Do not give up.’ We all go through writer’s block. Sometimes you just have to walk away from a record and come back to it. But don’t give up because I’m standing here. And this is big for hip-hop, too.”
Queen Latifah inducted her longtime friend into the hall of fame, while former collaborators Da Brat and Lizzo performed a rendition of Elliott’s “Sock It 2 Me.”
Elliott is the third rapper overall to have earned the Songwriters Hall of Fame distinction, with Jay-Z being inducted back in 2017 and Jermaine Dupri in 2018.
Also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday was Cat Stevens and John Pine, a country-folk icon.
Elliott has become quite the trailblazer lately, having also become the first female rapper to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee University in Boston last month.