Today in Hip-Hop: R.I.P. Aaliyah (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001)
On this day, Aug. 25, in hip-hop history...
2001: Today, Aug. 25, 2016, marks 15 years since the death of R&B superstar Aaliyah. The princess of R&B has been immortalized years after her passing thanks to her angelic voice, her natural beauty, killer dance moves and a chart-topping discography.
Born Aaliyah Haughton in Brooklyn, N.Y. and raised in Detroit, the petite songstress got her start in the music industry as a teenager. Under the guidance of her mentor R. Kelly, Haughton dropped her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, in 1994 at the age of 15. Under social scrutiny that Haughton was involved in a romantic relationship with Kelly — the two were married from 1994 to 1995 — Aaliyah soon signed to Atlantic Records. It was there at Atlantic where Aaliyah went from budding R&B starlet to certified hitmaker.
She then began working with Missy Elliott and Timbaland on her sophomore studio album, 1996's One in a Million. Propelled by the singles "If Your Girl Only Knew", "One in a Million," "Got to Give It Up," "4 Page Letter," "Hot Like Fire" and "The One I Gave My Heart To," One in a Million made Aaliyah a household name. By June 1997, the LP was certified double platinum.
In 2001, she followed that up with her third and final album, Aaliyah. Executive produced by Haughton herself, the album spawned tracks like "More Than a Woman" and "Rock the Boat" and was hailed by critics as one of the best R&B albums of the year. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
As Aaliyah's popularity skyrocketed into the new millennium, she began to explore a career in acting. She appeared in her first film, Romeo Must Die, in 2000 playing opposite Jet Li. Aaliyah was set to star in more films before her untimely death.
On Aug. 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight members of her team were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas coming back from filming the music video for her upcoming single "Rock the Boat." The pilot of the plane had been drinking and was unlicensed. She was 22 years old.
Aaliyah's death sent a shock wave of grief throughout the hip-hop world, especially from those close to her like Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Aaliyah's legacy undoubtedly surpasses the scope of her career, most because she was one of those artists who was gone too soon. Even 15 years later, rappers, singers and actors alike still mourn the death of Aaliyah. MCs like Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and more pay homage to her in song and Drake even cites the R&B superstar as one of his greatest inspirations. The 6ix God has a tattoo on his back to prove it.
Rest in peace to Aaliyah. Still one in a million.
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