August 25, 2001.
I was 10 years old when my brother came into the room we shared and told me, “Aaliyah’s dead”. I still remember that moment; It was a Sunday morning and we were supposed to be getting ready for church. After he told me, I immediately turned on MTV and there it was in bold headlines:
SINGER AALIYAH KILLED IN PLANE CRASH
I remember the emotions I felt afterwards; I was quiet, I cried a lot, I tried to learn everything I could about her. Back in 2001, there was no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and we sure as hell didn’t have TMZ giving us every gory and overly personal detail about our favorite celebrity. The internet was less than 10 years old; we were fortunate enough to have AOL dial up. I kept the TV shuffled between MTV, BET, and VH1, because I just had to know how my favorite singer had died and every other detail I could find out. I probably know as much about that accident as someone who was there and witnessed it first hand.
Today, I am 26 years old and have lived four years longer than Aaliyah. Even today, her death still haunts me.
Most people who know I love Aaliyah think I’m just some super stan. But for me, I was a fan of Aaliyah for more than just her music. I grew up in an era where it took more than a pretty face and auto tune to be famous. Sure, people like Britney Spears lip synced when she was on tour, but she made up for it by putting on one hell of a show and making great albums.
The same could be said about Aaliyah; she wasn’t a powerhouse vocalist, but her music is timeless and she definitely was a trendsetter. You see her still reflected in younger artists like Keke Palmer, Zendaya, Sevyn Streeter and even Drake. People are still mentioning her in their songs, her style is suddenly popular again and, her music changed the face of R&B as we know it today. Think about it, without Aaliyah there would be no Missy Elliott, no Timbaland and half of the songs you grew up listening to and even some of your favorite artists today wouldn’t be as popular if not for Missy and Tim, who got their start because of Aaliyah.
I think for me on a deeper level, Aaliyah is special because of what she embodied and how she carried herself. To be just 22 years old at the time of her death, she carried herself with such style, class, and a grace all her own. Looking at 22 year olds today…they seem like such babies! Hell, at 22 I was still awkward as all get out, just starting to find my place in the world. At 22 Aaliyah knew what she wanted and she knew where she was going. The possibilities for her at that time were limitless. Also, I think another reason I liked her so much because she gave you just enough of herself, to the point where if she wasn’t on the scene you missed her, leaving room for other R&B artists to emerge and grow. I think that’s something that’s missing in today’s R&B; there isn’t room for everyone to win. In the 90’s you had a plethora of artists with music that’s still relevant today. I mean, I grew up in an era where you had Michael, Whitney, Janet, and Prince all making music at the same damn time. Not only did we have the OGs, but we also had the baby legends-Aaliyah, Brandy, Monica. And, the 90’s was the peak of R&B singers and R&B groups-Escape, TLC, SWV, EnVogue, Blackstreet, Boyz II Men, Jagged Edge, 112…the list goes on and on.
Even though today marks 16 long, painful years since Aaliyah was taken from us, she leaves a lasting legacy (aside from that shitty ass movie Wendy Williams tried to make; I still wanna fight her for making that atrocity of trash called a biopic); I mean just yesterday, MAC cosmetics announced a new Aaliyah inspired makeup line set to hit shelves in 2018.
How dope is that?!
First they gave me Selena, then they gave me Taraji P Henson’s line and now they’ve got Aaliyah and Nicki Minaj…one time for the #BlackGirlMagic!
While Aaliyah’s career was cut short far too soon, her legacy will last forever.
I wanna end this piece with a quote from babygirl herself:
“It’s hard to say what I want my legacy to be when I’m long gone…I want people to remember me as a full-on entertainer and a good person”
I like to think that she fulfilled this quote; I also like to think that wherever she is that she’s proud of the legacy she left behind…
Now if only we could get her Uncle Barry Hankerson to put her entire musical catalogue online…