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|Born||Aaliyah Dana Haughton|
January 16, 1979
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||August 25, 2001 (aged 22)|
Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, The Bahamas
Cause of death
|Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York, U.S.|
|Occupation||singer, dancer, actress, model|
|Home town||Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|Relatives||Rashad Haughton (brother)|
Barry Hankerson (uncle)
|Awards||List of awards and nominations received by Aaliyah|
|Genres||R&B, pop, hip hop|
|Associated acts||Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, R. Kelly, Slick Rick, Timbaland, Treach, Static Major|
|Born||Aaliyah Dana Haughton|
January 16, 1979
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||August 25, 2001 (aged 22)|
Marsh Harbour, Abaco Islands, The Bahamas
Cause of death
|Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York, U.S.|
|Occupation||singer, dancer, actress, model|
|Home town||Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|Relatives||Rashad Haughton (brother)|
Barry Hankerson (uncle)
|Awards||List of awards and nominations received by Aaliyah|
|Genres||R&B, pop, hip hop|
|Associated acts||Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, R. Kelly, Slick Rick, Timbaland, Treach, Static Major|
Aaliyah Dana Haughton (//) (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, dancer, actress, and model. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 10, she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. At age 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and her uncle Barry Hankerson's Blackground Records. Hankerson introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. The album sold three million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with R. Kelly, Aaliyah ended her contract with Jive and signed with Atlantic Records.
Aaliyah worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, One in a Million; it sold 3.7 million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. In 2000, Aaliyah appeared in her first major film, Romeo Must Die. She contributed to the film's soundtrack, which spawned the single "Try Again". The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this feat. "Try Again" earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist. After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah filmed her part in Queen of the Damned. She released her third and final album, Aaliyah, in July 2001.
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in a plane crash in The Bahamas after filming the music video for the single "Rock the Boat". The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Aaliyah's family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, which was settled out of court. Aaliyah's music has continued to achieve commercial success with several posthumous releases. Aaliyah sold 52 million records worldwide. She has been credited for helping redefine contemporary R&B and hip hop, earning her the nicknames "Princess of R&B" and "Queen of Urban Pop". She is listed by Billboard as the tenth most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years and 27th most successful R&B artist in history.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born on January 16, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York. She had African and Oneida heritage, and was the younger child of Diane and Michael Haughton. At a young age, Aaliyah was enrolled in voice lessons by her mother. She started performing at weddings, church choir and charity events. When she was five years old, her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she was raised along with her older brother, Rashad. She attended a Catholic school, Gesu Elementary, where in first grade, she received a part in the stage play Annie. From then on, she was determined to become an entertainer.
Throughout her life, she had a good relationship with her brother, which traced back to their childhood as Rashad reflected that growing up with Aaliyah was "amazing". He recalled her running around their home singing and that never being annoying due to her having a "beautiful voice". She and her brother became close with their cousin Jomo Hankerson, since growing up, they lived "about five blocks apart". Jomo walked Aaliyah and Rashad to their home from school when their mother was not able to pick them up and recalled the Haughton household being filled with music.
Aaliyah's mother was a vocalist, and her uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an entertainment lawyer who had been married to Gladys Knight. As a child, Aaliyah traveled with Knight and worked with an agent in New York to audition for commercials and television programs, including Family Matters; she went on to appear on Star Search at the age of ten. She auditioned for several record labels and at age 11 appeared in concerts alongside Knight. Her grandmother died in 1991. Years after her death, Aaliyah said her grandmother supported everyone in the family and always wanted to hear her sing, as well as admitting that she "spoiled" her and her brother Rashad "to death." She also enjoyed Aaliyah's singing and would have Aaliyah to sing for her. Aaliyah stated that she thought of her grandmother whenever she fell into depression. Aaliyah's hands reminded her of her aunt, who died when she was "very young" and Aaliyah referred to her as an "amazingly beautiful woman".
After Hankerson signed a distribution deal with Jive Records, he signed Aaliyah to his Blackground Records label at the age of 12. Hankerson later introduced her to recording artist and producer R. Kelly, who became Aaliyah's mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of the album, which was recorded when she was 14. Aaliyah's debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, was released under Jive and Blackground Records; the album debut at number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 74,000 copies in its first week. It ultimately peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 and sold over three million copies in the United States, where it was certified two times Platinum by the RIAA. In Canada, the album sold over 50,000 copies and was certified gold by the CRIA. Aaliyah's debut single, "Back & Forth", topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for three weeks and was certified Gold by the RIAA. The second single, a cover of The Isley Brothers' "At Your Best (You Are Love)", peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also certified Gold by the RIAA. The title track, "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number", peaked at number 75 on the Hot 100. Additionally, she released "The Thing I Like" as part of the soundtrack to the 1994 film A Low Down Dirty Shame.
Age Ain't Nothing But a Number received generally favorable reviews from music critics. Some writers noted that Aaliyah's "silky vocals" and "sultry voice" blended with Kelly's new jack swing helped define R&B in the 1990s. Her sound was also compared to that of female quartet En Vogue. Christopher John Farley of Time magazine described the album as a "beautifully restrained work", noting that Aaliyah's "girlish, breathy vocals rode calmly on R. Kelly's rough beats". Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic felt that the album had its "share of filler", but described the singles as "slyly seductive". He also claimed that the songs on the album were "frequently better" than that of Kelly's second studio album, 12 Play. The single "At Your Best (You Are Love)" was criticized by Billboard for being out of place on the album and for its length.
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In 1996, Aaliyah left Jive Records and signed with Atlantic Records. She worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott, who contributed to her second studio album, One in a Million. Missy Elliott recalled Timbaland and herself being nervous to work with Aaliyah, since Aaliyah had already released her successful debut album while Missy Elliott and Timbaland were just starting out. Missy Elliott also feared she would be a diva, but reflected that Aaliyah "came in and was so warming; she made us immediately feel like family.” The album yielded the single "If Your Girl Only Knew", which topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for two weeks. It also generated the singles "Hot Like Fire" and "4 Page Letter". The following year, Aaliyah was featured on Timbaland & Magoo's debut single, "Up Jumps da Boogie". One in a Million peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200, selling over 3.7 million copies in the United States and over eight million copies worldwide. The album was certified double platinum by the RIAA on June 16, 1997, denoting shipments of two million copies. The month prior to One in a Million's release, on May 5, 1997, music publisher Windswept Pacific filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Aaliyah claiming she had illegally copied Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do for Love" for the single "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number".
Aaliyah attended the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, where she majored in drama and graduated in 1997. Aaliyah began her acting career that same year; she played herself in the police drama television series New York Undercover. During this time, Aaliyah participated in the Children's Benefit Concert, a charity concert that took place at the Beacon Theatre in New York. Aaliyah also became the spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger Corporation. She contributed on the soundtrack album for the Fox Animation Studios animated feature Anastasia, performing a cover version of "Journey to the Past" which earned songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Aaliyah performed the song at the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony and became the youngest singer to perform at the event. The song "Are You That Somebody?" was featured on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack, which earned Aaliyah her first Grammy Award nomination. The song peaked at number 21 on the Hot 100.
In 2000, Aaliyah landed her first major movie role in Romeo Must Die. Aaliyah starred opposite martial artist Jet Li, playing a couple who fall in love amid their warring families. It grossed US$18.6 million in its first weekend, ranking number two at the box office. Aaliyah purposely stayed away from reviews of the film to "make it easier on" herself, but she heard "that people were able to get into me, which is what I wanted." In addition to acting, Aaliyah served as an executive producer of the film soundtrack, where she contributed four songs. "Try Again" was released as a single from the soundtrack; the song topped the Billboard Hot 100, making Aaliyah the first artist to top the chart based solely on airplay; this led the song to be released in a 12" vinyl and 7" single. The music video won the Best Female Video and Best Video from a Film awards at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. It also earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist. The soundtrack went on to sell 1.5 million copies in the United States. After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah began to work on her second film, Queen of the Damned. She played the role of an ancient vampire, Queen Akasha, which she described as a "manipulative, crazy, sexual being". Prior to her death, she expressed the possibility of recording songs for the film's soundtrack and welcomed the possibility of collaborating with Jonathan Davis. She was scheduled to film for the sequels of The Matrix as the character Zee.
In May 2001, Shaquille O'Neal admitted that his remarks where he claimed to have engaged in sexual intercourse with Aaliyah, Cindy Crawford and Venus Williams were false after making the allegations during an appearance on a radio station and apologized to the three. All three denied the claims. The following month, June 2001, Aaliyah posed for a photo shoot with Eric Johnson. Johnson kept the images in his "private personal archive" for thirteen years before providing digital copies of 13 Aaliyah photographs to an online photography magazine and authorizing the publication to use the photographs for a story they were doing on Aaliyah. Not long after, he filed a lawsuit claiming ABC had infringed his rights since the corporation authorized further reproduction by reproducing them online.
Aaliyah released her self-titled album, Aaliyah, in July 2001. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 187,000 copies in its first week. The first single from the album, "We Need a Resolution", peaked at number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100. She finished recording the album in March 2001 after a year of recording tracks that began in March of the previous year. At the time she started recording the album, Aaliyah's publicist disclosed the album's release date as most likely being in October 2000. Filming for Queen of the Damned delayed the release of Aaliyah. Aaliyah enjoyed balancing her singing and acting careers. Though she called music a "first" for her, she also had been acting since she was young and had wanted to begin acting "at some point in my career," but "wanted it to be the right time and the right vehicle" and felt Romeo Must Die "was it".
Aaliyah was released five years after One in a Million. Aaliyah had not intended for the albums to have such a gap between them. "I wanted to take a break after One in a Million to just relax, think about how I wanted to approach the next album. Then, when I was ready to start back up, “Romeo” happened, and so I had to take another break and do that film and then do the soundtrack, then promote it. The break turned into a longer break than I anticipated." Connie Johnson of the Los Angeles Times argued that Aaliyah having to focus on her film career may have caused her to not give the album "the attention it merited."
The week after Aaliyah's death, her third studio album, Aaliyah, rose from number 19 to number one on the Billboard 200. "Rock the Boat" was released as a posthumous single. The music video premiered on BET's Access Granted; it became the most viewed and highest rated episode in the history of the show. The song peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It was also included on the Now That's What I Call Music! 8 compilation series; a portion of the album's profits was donated to the Aaliyah Memorial Fund. Promotional posters for Aaliyah that had been put up in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles became makeshift memorials for grieving fans.
"More than a Woman" and "I Care 4 U" were released as posthumuous singles and peaked within the top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album was certified double Platinum by the RIAA and sold 2.95 million copies in the United States. "More than a Woman" reached number one on the UK singles chart making Aaliyah the first deceased artist to reach number one on the UK singles chart. "More than a Woman" was replaced by George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" which is the only time in the UK singles chart's history where a dead artist has replaced another dead artist at number one. In July 2001, she allowed MTV's show Diary behind-the-scenes access to her life and stated "I am truly blessed to wake up every morning to do something that I love; there is nothing better than that." She continued, "Everything is worth it -- the hard work, the times when you're tired, the times when you are a bit sad. In the end, it's all worth it because it really makes me happy. I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world. I've got good friends, a beautiful family and I've got a career. I thank God for his blessings every single chance I get."
Aaliyah was signed to appear in several future films, including Honey, a romantic film titled Some Kind of Blue, and a Whitney Houston-produced remake of the 1976 film Sparkle. Whitney Houston recalled Aaliyah being "so enthusiastic" about the film and wanting to appear in the film "so badly". Houston also voiced her belief that Aaliyah was more than qualified for the role and the film was shelved after she died, since Aaliyah had "gone to a better place". Studio officials of Warner Brothers stated that Aaliyah and her mother had both read the script for Sparkle. According to them, Aaliyah was passionate about playing the lead role of a young singer in a girl group. The film was released in 2012, eleven years after Aaliyah's death. Before her death, Aaliyah had filmed part of her role in The Matrix Reloaded and was scheduled to appear in The Matrix Revolutions as Zee. Aaliyah told Access Hollywood that she was "beyond happy" to have landed the role. The role was subsequently recast to Nona Gaye. Aaliyah's scenes were included in the tribute section of the Matrix Ultimate Collection series.
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Aaliyah had the vocal range of a soprano. With the release of her debut single "Back & Forth", Dimitri Ehrlich of Entertainment Weekly expressed that Aaliyah's "silky vocals are more agile than those of self-proclaimed queen of hip-hop soul Mary J. Blige." Aaliyah described her sound as "street but sweet", which featured her "gentle" vocals over a "hard" beat. Though Aaliyah did not write any of her own material, her lyrics were described as in-depth. She incorporated R&B, pop and hip hop into her music. Her songs were often uptempo and at the same time often dark, revolving around "matters of the heart". After her R. Kelly-produced debut album, Aaliyah worked with Timbaland and Missy Elliott, whose productions were more electronic. Sasha Frere-Jones of The Wire finds Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?" to be Timbaland's "masterpiece" and exemplary of his production's start-stop rhythms, with "big half-second pauses between beats and voices". Keith Harris of Rolling Stone cites "Are You That Somebody?" as "one of '90s R&B's most astounding moments".
Aaliyah's songs have been said to have "crisp production" and "staccato arrangements" that "extend genre boundaries" while containing "old-school" soul music. Kelefah Sanneh of The New York Times called Aaliyah "a digital diva who wove a spell with ones and zeroes", and writes that her songs comprised "simple vocal riffs, repeated and refracted to echo the manipulated loops that create digital rhythm", as Timbaland's "computer-programmed beats fitted perfectly with her cool, breathy voice to create a new kind of electronic music." When she experimented with other genres on Aaliyah, such as Latin pop and heavy metal, Entertainment Weekly's Craig Seymour panned the attempt. As her albums progressed, writers felt that Aaliyah matured, calling her progress a "declaration of strength and independence". Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described her eponymous album, Aaliyah, as "a statement of maturity and a stunning artistic leap forward" and called it one of the strongest urban soul records of its time. She portrayed "unfamiliar sounds, styles and emotions", but managed to please critics with the contemporary sound it contained. Ernest Hardy of Rolling Stone felt that Aaliyah reflected a stronger technique, where she gave her best vocal performance. Prior to her death, Aaliyah expressed a desire to learn about the burgeoning UK garage scene she had heard about at the time.
As an artist, Aaliyah often voiced that she was inspired by a number of performers. These include Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Sade, En Vogue, Nine Inch Nails, Korn, Prince, Naughty by Nature, Johnny Mathis and Janet Jackson. Aaliyah expressed that Michael Jackson's Thriller was her "favorite album" and that "nothing will ever top Thriller." She stated that she admired Sade because "she stays true to her style no matter what... she's an amazing artist, an amazing performer... and I absolutely love her." Aaliyah expressed she had always desired to work with Janet Jackson, whom she had drawn frequent comparison to over the course of her career, stating "I admire her a great deal. She's a total performer... I'd love to do a duet with Janet Jackson." Jackson reciprocated Aaliyah's affections, commenting "I've loved her from the beginning because she always comes out and does something different, musically." Jackson also stated she would have enjoyed collaborating with Aaliyah.
Aaliyah focused on her public image throughout her career. She often wore baggy clothes and sunglasses, stating that she wanted to be herself. She described her image as being "important... to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack". She often wore black clothing, starting a trend for similar fashion among women in United States and Japan. Aaliyah participated in fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger's All America Tour and was featured in Tommy Jean ads, which depicted her in boxer shorts, baggy jeans and a tube top. Hilfiger's brother, Andy, called it "a whole new look" that was "classy but sexy". When she changed her hairstyle, Aaliyah took her mother's advice to cover her left eye, much like Veronica Lake. The look has become known as her signature and been referred to as fusion of "unnerving emotional honesty" and "a sense of mystique". In 1998, she hired a personal trainer to keep in shape, and exercised five days a week and ate diet foods. Aaliyah was praised for her "clean-cut image" and "moral values". Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote of Aaliyah's artistry and image, "she was lithe and dulcet in a way that signified neither jailbait nor hottie—an ingenue whose selling point was sincerity, not innocence and the obverse it implies." She was also seen as a sex symbol. Aaliyah did not have problem with being considered one. "I know that people think I'm sexy and I am looked at as that, and it is cool with me. It's wonderful to have sex appeal. If you embrace it, it can be a very beautiful thing. I am totally cool with that. Definitely. I see myself as sexy. If you are comfortable with it, it can be very classy and it can be very appealing."
Aaliyah's father Michael Haughton, who died in 2012, served as her personal manager. Her mother assisted her in her career while brother Rashad Haughton and cousin Jomo Hankerson worked with her consistently. Aaliyah was known to have usually been accompanied by members of her immediate family and the "Rock the Boat" filming was credited by her brother Rashad as being the first and only time her family was not present. In October 2001, Rashad stated: "It really boggles everyone [that] from Day One, every single video she ever shot there's always been myself or my mother or my father there. The circumstances surrounding this last video were really strange because my mother had eye surgery and couldn't fly. That really bothered her because she always traveled. My dad had to take care of my mom at that time. And I went to Australia to visit some friends. We really couldn't understand why we weren't there. You ask yourself maybe we could have stopped it. But you can't really answer the question. There's always gonna be that question of why." Her friend Kidada Jones said in the last year of her life her parents had given her more freedom and she had talked about wanting a family. "She wanted to have a family, and we talked about how we couldn't wait to kick back with our babies."
With the release of Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, rumors circulated of a relationship between Aaliyah and R. Kelly. Shortly after, there was speculation about a secret marriage with the release of "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" and the adult content that Kelly had written for Aaliyah. Vibe magazine later revealed a marriage certificate that listed the couple married on August 31, 1994, in Sheraton Gateway Suites in Rosemont, Illinois. Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time, was listed as 18 on the certificate; the illegal marriage was annulled in February 1995 by her parents. The pair continued to deny marriage allegations, stating that neither was married.
Aaliyah reportedly developed a friendship with R. Kelly during the recording of her debut album. As she recalled to Vibe magazine in 1994, she and R. Kelly would "go watch a movie" and "go eat" when she got tired and would then "come back and work". She described the relationship between her and R. Kelly as being "rather close." In December 1994, Aaliyah told the Sun-Times that whenever she was asked about being married to R. Kelly, she urged them not to believe "all that mess" and that she and R. Kelly were "close" and "people took it the wrong way." In his 2011 book The Man Behind the Man: Looking From the Inside Out, Demetrius Smith Sr, a former member of R. Kelly's entourage, wrote that R. Kelly told him "in a voice that sounded as if he wanted to burst into tears" that he thought Aaliyah was pregnant.
Aaliyah admitted in court documents that she had lied about her age. In May 1997, she filed suit in Cook County seeking to have all records of the marriage expunged because she was not old enough under state law to get married without her parents' consent. It was reported that she cut off all professional and personal ties with R. Kelly after the marriage was annulled and ceased having contact with him. In 2014, Jomo Hankerson stated that Aaliyah "got villainized" over her relationship with R. Kelly and the scandal over the marriage made it difficult to find producers for her second album. "We were coming off of a multi-platinum debut album and except for a couple of relationships with Jermaine Dupri and Puffy, it was hard for us to get producers on the album.” Hankerson also expressed confusion over why "they were upset" with Aaliyah given her age at the time.
Aaliyah was known to avoid answering questions regarding R. Kelly following the professional split. During an interview with Christopher John Farley, she was asked if she was still in contact with him and if she would ever work with him again. Farley said Aaliyah responded with a "firm, frosty" 'No' to both of the questions. Vibe magazine said Aaliyah changed the subject anytime "you bring up the marriage with her". A spokeswoman for Aaliyah told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2000 that when "R. Kelly comes up, she doesn't even speak his name, and nobody's allowed to ask about it at all".
R. Kelly would have other allegations made about him regarding underage girls in the years following her death and his marriage to Aaliyah was used to evidence his involvement with them. He refused to discuss his relationship with her, citing that she was deceased. "Out of respect for her, and her mom and her dad, I will not discuss Aaliyah. That was a whole other situation, a whole other time, it was a whole other thing, and I'm sure that people also know that." Aaliyah's mother Diane Haughton reflected that everything "that went wrong in her life" began with her relationship with R. Kelly. The allegations have been said to have done "little to taint Aaliyah's image or prevent her from becoming a reliable '90s hitmaker with viable sidelines in movies and modeling."
Quincy Jones said she was "like one of my daughters" and Aaliyah vacationed with him and his family in Fiji. She was close friends with his daughter Kidada Jones. By 2001, they had been best friends for five years and Jones described her as having a great sense of humor. Aaliyah and Jones would make prank phone calls to what Aaliyah referred to as "public establishments". At the time of her death, she and Jones were planning on starting a clothing line, benefited by Aaliyah's popularity as a "style-setter" and she sought to capitalize on her good taste. Her brother Rashad called her his best friend and stated that she "was my everything". Beyoncé stated after Aaliyah's death that she was "the very first person to embrace Destiny's Child." Aaliyah met Beyoncé as well as the other members of Destiny's Child around 1998 in Los Angeles. They were intimidated about meeting her, since she had already established herself and they were just making their names at the time.
In addition to working with them, Aaliyah had friendships with Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Aaliyah recalled her first time meeting Missy Elliott. "When we met, there was a bond that was established real quickly. A friendship formed and we built our studio relationship from that." Missy Elliott said in 2010 that "there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think" of Aaliyah and that she misses her every day. Missy Elliott said of Aaliyah during an appearance on RapFix Live in November 2012, "Aaliyah, she was like a comedian. She always wanted to laugh." Timbaland admitted in 2011 that he was in love with her, but did not act out on his feelings due to their age difference and determined he would just "be her brother". Despite this declaration, he still struggled with keeping his feelings to himself. Immediately following her death, Timbaland told MTV he considered her as his "little sister" and that he and Aaliyah had a "chemistry" and that he had lost half of his creativity with her death. He also said that fans needed to know that beyond music "she was a brilliant person."
Aaliyah was dating co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records Damon Dash at the time of her death and, though they were not formally engaged, in interviews given after Aaliyah's death Dash claimed the couple had planned to marry. Aaliyah and Dash met through his accountant and formed a friendship. Dash has said he is unsure of how he and Aaliyah started dating and that the two just understood each other. “I don’t know [how we got involved], just spending time, you know, we just saw things the same and it was new, you know what I mean? Meeting someone that is trying to do the same thing you are doing in the urban market, in the same urban market place but not really being so urban. It was just; her mind was where my mind was. She understood me and she got my jokes. She thought my jokes were funny.”
Dash expressed his belief that Aaliyah was the "one" and claimed the pair were not official engaged, but had spoken about getting married prior to her death. Aaliyah publicly never addressed the relationship between her and Dash as being anything but platonic. In May 2001, she hosted a party for Dash's 30th birthday at a New York City club, where they were spotted together and Dash was seen escorting her to a bathroom. Addressing this, Aaliyah stated that she and Dash were just "very good friends" and chose to "keep it at that" for the time being. Just two weeks before her death, Aaliyah traveled from New Jersey to East Hampton, New York to visit Dash at the summer house he shared with Jay-Z.
Aaliyah appeared on BET's 106 & Park on August 21, 2001 and announced shooting for the single "Rock the Boat" would begin the following day. She also gave away an Escalade to an audience member. The music video was directed by Hype Williams. On August 22, she filmed underwater shots for the video in Miami, Florida. She then flew with "about a dozen" of her associates to The Bahamas. She was scheduled to leave The Bahamas on August 26, but she chose to leave the day before since she had finished early. Williams recalled: "Aaliyah left midproduction, so we were still shooting when she left".
On August 25, 2001, at 6:50 p.m. (EDT), Aaliyah and various members of the record company boarded a twin-engine Cessna 402B (registration N8097W) at the Marsh Harbour Airport in Abaco Islands, The Bahamas, to travel to the Opa-locka Airport in Florida, after they completed filming the music video for "Rock the Boat". They had a flight scheduled the following day, but with filming finishing early, Aaliyah and her entourage were eager to return to the United States and made the decision to leave immediately. The designated airplane was smaller than the Cessna 404 on which they had originally arrived, but the whole party and all of the equipment were accommodated on board. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, about 200 feet (60 m) from the runway.
Aaliyah and the eight others on board—pilot Luis Morales III, hair stylist Eric Forman, Anthony Dodd, security guard Scott Gallin, video producer Douglas Kratz, stylist Christopher Maldonado, and Blackground Records employees Keith Wallace and Gina Smith—were all killed. Gallin survived the initial impact and spent his last moments worrying about Aaliyah's condition, according to ambulance drivers. The plane was identified as being owned by Florida-based company Skystream by Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the US Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta. Initial reports of the crash identified Luis Morales as "L Marael".
According to findings from an inquest conducted by the coroner's office in The Bahamas, Aaliyah suffered from "severe burns and a blow to the head", in addition to severe shock and a weak heart. The coroner theorized that she went into such a state of shock that even if she had survived the crash, her recovery would have been nearly impossible. The bodies were taken to the morgue at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where they were kept for relatives to help identify them. Some of the bodies were badly burned in the crash.
As the subsequent investigation determined, when the aircraft attempted to depart, it was over its maximum takeoff weight by 700 pounds (320 kg) and was carrying one excess passenger, according to its certification. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report stated that "the airplane was seen lifting off the runway, and then nose down, impacting in a marsh on the south side of the departure end of runway 27 and then exploding in flames." It indicated that the pilot was not approved to fly the plane. Morales falsely obtained his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license by showing hundreds of hours never flown, and he may also have falsified how many hours he had flown in order to get a job with his employer, Blackhawk International Airways. Additionally, an autopsy performed on Morales revealed traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system.
The NTSB reported that the maximum allowed gross weight of the plane was "substantially exceeded" and that the center of gravity was positioned beyond its rear limit. John Frank of the Cessna Pilots Association stated that the plane was "definitely overloaded". The U.S. joined the investigation on August 27, 2001 as authorities from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration arrived in The Bahamas. The following day, The New York Post printed the last photograph taken of Aaliyah before the crash, that of her and a fan, Alvin Lightdouin, who wanted a picture as a souvenir. Aaliyah spoke with Lightdouin for 15 minutes and she gave him a hug as well. Lightdouin praised her for a recent donation she had made to charity and Aaliyah explained "God blessed me with money and now it's time to give back."
Claude Sawyer, a 25-year-old charter pilot, witnessed the crash. He saw the Cessna go down as he was working on some machinery "about half a mile" away. He recalled the plane being only "60 to 100 feet" off the ground before it crashed. He went to get a firetruck and was stunned by what he saw upon arriving at the crash site. "I've seen crashes before but that was probably one of the worst ones," Sawyer said. "It was pretty devastating. The aircraft was broken into pieces and some of the seats were ejected from the aircraft."
Aaliyah's funeral was held on August 31, 2001, at the St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan. Her body was set in a silver-plated copper-deposit casket, which was carried in a glass hearse and was drawn by horse. An estimated 800 mourners were in attendance at the procession. Among those in attendance at the private ceremony were Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Gladys Knight, Lil' Kim and Sean Combs. After the service, 22 white doves were released to symbolize each year of Aaliyah's life. Aaliyah was interred in a private room at the end of a corridor in the Rosewood Mausoleum at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. The inscription at the bottom of Aaliyah's portrait at the funeral read: "We Were Given a Queen, We Were Given an Angel.”
Her brother Rashad delivered the eulogy and described his sister as giving him strength. "Aaliyah, you left, but I'll see you always next to me and I can see you smiling through the sunshine," he said. "When our life is over, our book is done. I hope God keeps me strong until I see her again." He read the names of the other victims of the crash and concluded with asking mourners to pray for them as well. As Diane Haughton and the mourners left, they sang Aaliyah's song "One in a Million".
The funeral came under criticism by Rod Dreher, a columnist in The New York Post, for being out of hand. "Right, so we're all sad that Aaliyah is dead, and no one begrudges her a proper sendoff. But a traffic-snarling, horse-drawn cortege in honor of a pop singer most people have never heard of? Give us a break." Al Sharpton responded to the column by defending the funeral and Aaliyah, questioning how "you determine that one life is not as important as another?" Col Allan, editor of The New York Post, supported the column and Dreher. "I stand by Rob Dreher. He had a right to express an opinion."
Luis Morales III was reported in August 2001 by the Associated Press, The Palm Beach Post and other news outlets alleged that Morales had been sentenced to probation on August 13, 2001. The probation was due to him being found with a small amount of cocaine in his car during a traffic stop. Other reports, such as one by the New York Times on September 8, 2001 and another in the Sun-Sentinel questioned if Morales was qualified to fly the plane. Gabriel Penagaricano served as a lawyer for the family of Luis Morales and during an interview with Christopher John Farley, dismissed any questions about Morales' flight record as "the words of a fool." Penagaricano defended Morales as a "young man, totally dedicated to his profession and had set his sights on flying for one of the major airlines. In the meantime, he was doing what everybody else of his age and experience does, which is to fly for a charter operator in order to build up flying time." Penagaricano claimed Morales was "certainly" qualified to pilot a Cessna 402B.
U.S. aviation officials said on August 28, 2001, Morales had been hired by Blackhawk International Airways just two days before the crash and was not authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly the plane for the operator. Records from the FAA showed Blackhawk International Airways was clear to fly planes under a single-pilot certificate. However, according to Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, Morales was not on the name authorization papers.
The day of the crash was Morales' first official day with Blackhawk International Airways, an FAA Part 135 single-pilot operation. Morales was not registered with the FAA to fly for Blackhawk. As a result of the accident, Aaliyah's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, which was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Barry & Sons, Inc., a corporation formed in 1992 to develop, promote and capitalize Aaliyah and to oversee the production and distribution of her records and music videos, brought an unsuccessful lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court against Instinct Productions LLC, the company that was hired in August 2001 to produce the music video for "Rock the Boat". The case was dismissed because New York's wrongful death statute permits only certain people in relation to the deceased to recover damages for wrongful death.
The families of Eric Foreman and Anthony Dodd filed lawsuits against Virgin Records alleging the record label was negligent in chartering the plane that killed the two and the other passengers. The lawsuit also alleged that Blackhawk had been cited four times in the previous four years. Attorney Brian Panish charged that the victims of the crash died instantly because Virgin Records "put profits over people" at a news conference. In less than a week, the relatives of Scott Gallin joined in on suing Virgin Records, charging that the record label and its affiliated music and video production units were liable for Gallin’s death because they handled the arrangements for Aaliyah’s video shoot in the Bahamas. Allegations in the lawsuit by the relatives of Gallin included that the record label should have hired a “competent” transportation broker and air charter company and that Blackhawk allowed the pilot to fly the plane even though he was unqualified and he took off with the plane dangerously overloaded.
In May 2002, Aaliyah's parents filed a lawsuit against Virgin Records in Los Angeles, similar to those filed by the families of Foreman and Dodd, alleging negligence. The lawsuit claimed that a "dangerous and unsafe configuration" of the Cessna was the cause of the crash and that it was the wrong plane for the charter flight, as well as suggesting Morales was not properly qualified. In addition to suing Virgin Records, the lawsuit by her parents named several video companies and Blackhawk International Airways. The defendants listed were music video director Harold Williams, Instinct Productions, Big Dog House Films, Blackground Records LLC, Skystream and Blackhawk International Airways. An investigator for the Bahamian Civil Aviation Department stated neither Blackhawk or Skystream had a permit to operate commercial charter flights in the Bahamas. In September 2003, lawyers for her parents filed a notice in federal court to say the case had been settled with an agreement to keep details confidential.
In August 2002, the funeral home which prepared Aaliyah's body and the bodies of the other eight people of the crash publicly accused Virgin Records of not paying the bill. Loretta Turner, of Butlers Funeral Homes and Crematorium in Nassau, told Time Magazine $68,000 was spent preparing the bodies and at the time, Virgin executives Ken and Nancy Berry agreed to cover all of the expenses incurred. By the time of Turner's announcement that the funeral home had not been paid, Ken and Nancy Berry had left the record label; Turner tried to contact executives at Virgin Records and appealed to the US Embassy in Nassau for help, but failed to resolve the situation. "They have kept us waiting for nearly a year and have basically said, since the Berrys are no longer there, they have no responsibility to us," Turner stated. Although the funeral home did not take legal action, Turner did contact Robert Spragg, the lawyer for Aaliyah's parents. According to Spragg, the record label also owed the Haughton family money for funeral costs, stating "Those payments were never made to the family to reimburse those costs, and they were substantial". It was reported at the time of the funeral home not being paid that Aaliyah's parents planned to file a lawsuit against Virgin Records for not fulfilling its promise to pay Aaliyah's funeral expenses. Turner said she would hold onto the death certificates of the passengers and pilot. The death certificates were required before Aaliyah's estate could be settled and the lawsuits could be filed.
Quincy Jones told the Associated Press that he was devastated by her death. Tourism minister Turnquest stated “We find it devastating and most unfortunate that after having this world-famous star Aaliyah and her crew select the Bahamas as their choice location for her latest video, the project has climaxed on such a tragic note”. Two days after she died, on August 27, 2001, fans gathered near her former high school to remember her in a candlelight vigil. By August 29, 2001, four days after she died, nearly 6,000 people emailed BBC News "expressing shock and sorrow" at her death.
Gladys Knight expressed she felt "blessed" to have known Aaliyah and stated: "I watched her grow up, and, with the rest of the world, saw her achieve success with her special and unique talents." She continued: "From an early age, I knew she had enormous talents, an intrinsic gift. When she first performed with me in Las Vegas, she was still quite young, but she already had it - that spark the world would later see and fall in love with." Silbert Mills, an official on Abaco Island, reported the denizens playing her music there and added "That's the whole tragedy of it. We felt as if we knew her, yet we didn't." Beyoncé praised her good nature and stated "She was one of the first celebrities we met, she was so nice, we went out, we hung out with her, and it's really sad and we're trying to be strong". Lil' Kim described the crash as "really devastating" and said she "could never find anything bad about her."
Her Romeo Must Die costar Jet Li heard of her death and was "deeply saddened that she is no longer with us. She was a wonderful and talented artist who will be missed by everyone whose lives she touched." DMX called her "talented, classy, warm, beautiful, compassionate, humble." Damon Dash said he was "crushed and heartbroken over the loss of such a beautiful and talented woman whom I loved deeply and meant the world to me" and Sean Combs remembered Aaliyah as "just one of those individuals that would light up a room", adding: "She was very down to earth. She was a special individual. . . . We all saw her grow up from a little girl into a woman. It's a hard, sad day for everyone." Ginuwine referred to her as family, said he would miss her and offered his condolences to her family, while speaking to the New York Daily News from Los Angeles.
Hot 97 Hot Jock Star mocked her death by playing a tape of a woman screaming while a crash is heard in the background on August 27. Rumors circulated that he was attacked by friends of Aaliyah, which Star denied. Star was suspended and expressed remorse for his actions, admitting they were in "poor taste". Star said he had underestimated the tolerance of his urban audience, reasoning that he had grown up "listening to Howard Stern and other white humor". He expressed the possibility that it was too late and said "I'm trying not to make fun of anything Aaliyah-related right now, because I'm aware people are trying to focus all their anger on me."
Immediately after Aaliyah's death, there was uncertainty over whether the music video for "Rock the Boat" would ever air. It made its world premiere on BET's Access Granted on October 9, 2001. She won two posthumous awards at the American Music Awards of 2002; Favorite Female R&B Artist and Favorite R&B/Soul Album for Aaliyah. Her second and final film, Queen of the Damned, was released in February 2002. Before its release, Aaliyah's brother, Rashad, re-dubbed some of her lines during post-production. It grossed US$15.2 million in its first weekend, ranking number one at the box office. On the first anniversary of Aaliyah's death, a candlelight vigil was held in Times Square; millions of fans observed a moment of silence; and throughout the United States, radio stations played her music in remembrance. In December 2002, a collection of previously unreleased material was released as Aaliyah's first posthumous album, I Care 4 U. A portion of the proceeds was donated to the Aaliyah Memorial Fund, a program that benefits the Revlon UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program and Harlem's Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, selling 280,000 copies in its first week. The album's lead single, "Miss You", peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In August of the following year, clothing retailer Christian Dior donated profits from sales in honor of Aaliyah.
In 2005, Aaliyah's second compilation album, Ultimate Aaliyah was released in the UK by Blackground Records. Ultimate Aaliyah is a three disc set, which included a greatest hits audio CD and a DVD. Andy Kellman of AllMusic remarked "Ultimate Aaliyah adequately represents the shortened career of a tremendous talent who benefited from some of the best songwriting and production work by Timbaland, Missy Elliott, and R. Kelly." A documentary movie Aaliyah Live in Amsterdam was released in 2011., shortly before the tenth anniversary of Aaliyah's death. The documentary, by Pogus Caesar, contained previously unseen footage shot of her career beginnings in 1995 when she was appearing in the Netherlands.
In March 2012, music producer Jeffrey "J-Dub" Walker announced on his Twitter account that a song "Steady Ground", which he produced for Aaliyah's third album, would be included in the forthcoming posthumous Aaliyah album. This second proposed posthumous album would feature this song using demo vocals, as Walker claims the originals were somehow lost by his sound engineer. Aaliyah's brother Rashad later refuted Walker's claim, claiming that "no official album [is] being released and supported by the Haughton family." On August 5, 2012, a song entitled "Enough Said" was released online. The song was produced by Noah "40" Shebib and features Canadian rapper Drake. Four days later, Jomo Hankerson confirmed a posthumous album is being produced and that it is scheduled to be released by the end of 2012 by Blackground Records. The album was reported to include 16 unreleased songs and have contributions from Aaliyah's longtime collaborators Timbaland and Missy Elliott, among others. On August 13, Timbaland and Missy Elliott dismissed rumors about being contacted or participating for the project. Elliott's manager Mona Scott-Young said in a statement to XXL, "Although Missy and Timbaland always strive to keep the memory of their close friend alive, we have not been contacted about the project nor are there any plans at this time to participate. We've seen the reports surfacing that they have been confirmed to participate but that is not the case. Both Missy and Timbaland are very sensitive to the loss still being felt by the family so we wanted to clear up any misinformation being circulated." Elliott herself said, "Tim and I carry Aaliyah with us everyday, like so many of the people who love her. She will always live in our hearts. We have nothing but love and respect for her memory and for her loved ones left behind still grieving her loss. They are always in our prayers."
In June 2013, Aaliyah was featured on a new track by Chris Brown, titled "Don't Think They Know"; with Aaliyah singing the song's hook. The video features dancing holographic versions of Aaliyah. The song is set to appear on Brown's upcoming sixth studio album, X. Timbaland voiced his disapproval for "Enough Said" and "Don't Think They Know" in July 2013. He exclaimed, “Aaliyah music only work with its soulmate, which is me”. Soon after, Timbaland apologized to Chris Brown over his remarks, which he explained were made due to Aaliyah and her death being a "very sensitive subject". In January 2014, producer Noah "40" Shebib confirmed that the posthumous album was shelved due to the negative reception surrounding Drake's involvement. Shebib added, "Aaliyah's mother saying, 'I don't want this out' was enough for me [...] I walked away very quickly."
Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine R&B and hip hop in the 1990s, "leaving an indelible imprint on the music industry as a whole." Steve Huey of AllMusic wrote Aaliyah ranks among the "elite" artists of the R&B genre, as she "played a major role in popularizing the stuttering, futuristic production style that consumed hip-hop and urban soul in the late 1990s." Described as one of "R&B's most important artists" during the 1990s, her second studio album, One in a Million, became one of the most influential R&B albums of the decade. Music critic Simon Reynolds cited "Are You That Somebody?" as "the most radical pop single" of 1998. Kelefah Sanneh of The New York Times wrote that rather than being the song's focal point, Aaliyah "knew how to disappear into the music, how to match her voice to the bass line", and consequently "helped change the way popular music sounds; the twitchy, beat-driven songs of Destiny's Child owe a clear debt to 'Are You That Somebody'." Sanneh asserted that by the time of her death in 2001, Aaliyah "had recorded some of the most innovative and influential pop songs of the last five years." With sales of 8.1 million albums in the United States and an estimated 24 to 32 million albums worldwide, Aaliyah earned the nicknames "Princess of R&B" and "Queen of Urban Pop", as she "proved she was a muse in her own right". Ernest Hardy of Rolling Stone dubbed her as the "undisputed queen of the midtempo come-on". Japanese pop singer Hikaru Utada has said several times that "It was when I heard Aaliyah's Age Ain't Nothing but a Number that I got hooked on R&B.", after which Utada released her debut album First Love with heavy R&B influences.
Aaliyah was honored at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards by Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Ginuwine and her brother, Rashad, who all paid tribute to her. In the same year, the United States Social Security Administration ranked the name Aaliyah one of the 100 most popular names for newborn girls. Aaliyah was ranked as one of "The Top 40 Women of the Video Era" in VH1's 2003 The Greatest series. She was also ranked at number 18 on BET's "Top 25 Dancers of All Time". Aaliyah appeared on both 2000 and 2001 list of Maxim Hot 100 in position 41 and the latter at 14. In memory of Aaliyah, the Entertainment Industry Foundation created the Aaliyah Memorial Fund to donate money raised to charities she supported. In December 2009, Billboard magazine ranked Aaliyah at number 70 on its Top Artists of the Decade, while her eponymous album was ranked at number 181 on the magazine's Top 200 Albums of the Decade. She is listed by Billboard as the tenth most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and 27th most successful R&B artist overall. In 2012, VH1 ranked her number 48 in "VH1's Greatest Women in Music".
Aaliyah's work has influenced numerous artists including Adele, Ciara, Beyoncé Knowles, Monica, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Azealia Banks, Sevyn Streeter, Keyshia Cole, J. Cole, Kelly Rowland, Zendaya, Rita Ora, The xx, Omarion, Canadian R&B singer Keshia Chanté who was said to play as her in her pending biopic back in 2008, complimented the singer's futuristic style in music and fashion. Keshia Chanté backed out of the biopic after speaking to Diane Haughton, but has expressed a willingness to do the project if "the right production comes along and the family's behind it". Keisha also mentioned that Aaliyah had been part of her life "since I was 6." R&B singer and friend Brandy said about the late singer "She came out before Monica and I did, she was our inspiration. At the time, record companies did not believe in kid acts and it was just inspiring to see someone that was winning and winning being themselves. When I met her I embraced her, I was so happy to meet her." Rapper Drake said that the singer has had the biggest influence on his career. He also has a tattoo of the singer behind his back. Solange Knowles remarked on the tenth anniversary of her death that she idolized Aaliyah and proclaimed that she would never be forgotten.
In 2012, British singer-songwriter Katy B released the song Aaliyah as a tribute to Aaliyah's legacy and lasting impression on R&B music. The song first appeared on Katy B's Danger EP and featured Jessie Ware on guest vocals.
There has been continuing belief that Aaliyah would have achieved greater career success had it not been for her death. Emil Wilbekin mentioned the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur in conjunction with hers and added: "Her just-released third album and scheduled role in a sequel to The Matrix could have made her another Janet Jackson or Whitney Houston". Director of Queen of the Damned Michael Rymer said of Aaliyah, "God, that girl could have gone so far" and spoke of her having "such a clarity about what she wanted. Nothing was gonna step in her way. No ego, no nervousness, no manipulation. There was nothing to stop her."
On July 18, 2014, it was announced that Alexandra Shipp has replaced Zendaya for the role of Aaliyah for the Lifetime TV biopic movie Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, the TV biopic movie will premiere on Lifetime in fall 2014. Zendaya drew criticism because she is biracial while Aaliyah was African-American. She referred to Aaliyah as "one of her biggest inspirations" and insisted that while she could not "please everybody", she could "work really hard and just continue to show [Aaliyah's] legacy. That’s all I’m focused on is really, really portraying her in the best light possible. That’s all it’s about." She explained her decision to drop out of the film in three videos she posted on Instagram. "The reason why I chose not to do the Aaliyah movie had nothing to do with the haters or people telling me that I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t talented enough, or I wasn’t black enough. It had absolutely nothing to do with that.” Aaliyah's family has been vocal in their disapproving of the film. Her cousin Jomo Hankerson stated the family would prefer a "major studio release along the lines" of What's Love Got to Do with It, the biopic loosely based on the life of Tina Turner. Aaliyah's family has consulted a lawyer to stop Lifetime from using “any of the music, or any of the photographs and videos” they own and Jomo Hankerson claimed the TV network "didn't reach out." On August 9, 2014, it was announced that Chattrisse Dolabaille and Izaak Smith had been cast as Aaliyah's collaborators Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Dolabaille received criticism for her appearance in comparison with that of Missy Elliot. The Urban Daily wrote: "The hushed frustrations around the industry are mainly pertaining to the fact that the actress is nothing like Missy Elliott. She is much lighter, she is much smaller and she doesn’t seem to have any Hip Hop or R&B background. Some feel that the biopic creators didn’t look hard enough for someone more appropriate to play Missy."
A feature film, scheduled for release in theaters in 2015, was reported in August 2014 to star B. Simone and have involvement from Aaliyah's uncle Barry Hankerson. The film is stated to feature unreleased music by the late singer.
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