Throughout the past two decades that I’ve spent being a fan and student of music, there have been increasingly too many moments in pop culture where time seems to somehow stop and the world inexplicably feels differently afterward.
As the years pass, certain memories become fleeting, while others help collectively build a legacy that is as everlasting as it is undeniable. When you hear names such as Prince, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Phife Dawg, David Bowie and Prodigy, among dozens of others, so many of us instantly can think back to exactly where we were when everything changed. How we were feeling as we first processed that same universal heartbreak being communally felt across the globe. How these individuals influenced us in more ways than one. How each gave us so many stories to tell. Such is the case with the beloved princess of R&B, Miss Aaliyah Dana Haughton.
I was eleven years old when I saw Sean “Diddy” Combs host an episode of TRL that confirmed the news that the 22-year-old icon had lost her life in a plane crash in the Bahamas over the weekend. When school started a week or so after and I began the sixth grade, I remember friends bringing CD copies of her latest album, Aaliyah, to class and crowding around sticker-laden Walkmans at lunch to share headphones instead of chat.
In the years that followed, if I learned as a teenager that you were an Aaliyah fan, I automatically liked you. When buying my clothes second-hand, I sharpened my eye for anything that could fall under that “tomboy chic” category she helped pioneer. She was the cooler older sister so many of us growing up in the late 90s and early aughts had only ever dreamed of. As I grew older, my fandom became both solidified and better informed. Her voice would consistently go on to bring me comfort in ways that millions of others still find solace in with each and every play.
As the music community reflects on her promising talent and infectiously pure spirit all these years later, on what would have been her 39th birthday (Jan. 16), her influence is not only present in today’s music and fashion landscapes, but her warm soul can still be felt as well.
While celebrities, colleagues and fans are blessing their timelines in tribute with photos and kind words of the late star—reminder, no Aaliyah slander will ever be tolerated let alone flourish—another probing fact strikingly stands out: her full music catalog is still nowhere to be found on streaming services in its entirety. While her R. Kelly-produced 1994 debut, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, is legally available for digital purchase on iTunes, her sophomore album One in a Million (1996) and what would be her third and final work, Aaliyah (2001), are still inexplicably being held hostage by her uncle, music executive Barry Hankerson. It’s unbelievable and it stings.
Hankerson, who played an integral role in helping launch Aaliyah’s career, as well as those of her frequent collaborators, including Missy Elliott, Timbaland and R. Kelly, has infamously refused to comment as to why he has held such an airtight grip on his niece’s music, with a handful of lawsuits, overall confusion and a rumoured post-humous album all woven into the complex and at-times unspoken story.
Despite her music being essentially temporarily vaulted (as far as millennials and the transitional music industry are concerned), the staying power of Aaliyah’s influence is impressively in tact, with her brand curiously maintaining through the madness.
In the 17 years that have followed since the visionary’s untimely and tragic passing, countless artists have drawn influence from her playbook and simultaneously put respect on her name, including the likes of Drake (who even commemorated his love for Aaliyah by getting her portrait tattooed), Beyoncé (throwback to that priceless red carpet interview where Queen Bey was visibly star struck), The Weeknd, Ciara, Rihanna, Tink, Alicia Keys, Solange Knowles, Tinashe, Nelly Furtado, Chris Brown and Kehlani, to name a few.
The hip-hop-leaning alternative R&B sound so prevalent across today’s airwaves has Aaliyah to thank, with her effortlessly cool and reinventive approach to singing R&B-style vocals over funky, futuristic rap beats—many of which were crafted by forward-thinking legends themselves, Missy Elliott and Timbaland—helping change the game and forge a new path for the next era to follow. As a result, her music holds a timeless quality, one that shows she was both ahead of her time and stolen from us far, far too soon.
From her impeccable voice and laidback, sultry vocal style to her flawlessly composed outfits and equally killer abs, Aaliyah’s authenticity could not be questioned nor threatened, further adding to both her allure and her transcendent influence. While we pray for the day where her music will become easily accessible online, we can’t help but recognize the power behind her legacy thriving in 2018, against all odds.
With her sound as iconic as her style, Aaliyah was and will eternally be the one. Just look around. Thank you, Babygirl. We miss you.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.
“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.
On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.
The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.
Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.
After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.
Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University
On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'
Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.
On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!
Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'
On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!
Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'
On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.
For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!
This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.
In October, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University. The HBCU located in Wilberforce, OH was the first stop on Walmart’s Black and Unlimited HBCU Tour.
“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.
Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money
At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money.
Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling
“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.
In this new episode of ‘Bet on Black,’ food and beverage take center stage as aspiring Black entrepreneurs from It’s Seasoned, Black Farmer Box, and Moors Brewing Co. present their business ideas to judges with mentorship from Melissa Butler. Watch here!
In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, Machel Montano dove into his musical journey, childhood stardom, and an exciting new chapter in business.