Daughter to Diane and Michael, Aaliyah was born on January 16, 1979 in Brooklyn, NY. Her parents gave her a unique name meaning “most exalted one” in the hopes that if they had a daughter, she would become a star. Well, she did. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan as a younger sister to her older brother Rashaad, Aaliyah got started in her music career early on and was very musically inclined. Her mother took her to voice, guitar, dance lessons and play rehearsals as a child. Having connections already through her uncle who was Gladys Knight’s ex-husband, Aaliyah was able to book a gig and perform with Knight at the age of 11 for five nights in Las Vegas. This would be the kickstart to her career.
Aaliyah’s uncle, Barry Hankerson, was an artist manager, one of his clients being R. Kelly. In 1992 at the age of 13, R. Kelly and Aaliyah were introduced to each other and he soon became her mentor. Helping her write and produce albums, R. Kelly helped release Aaliyah’s first album in 1994, “Age Ain’t Nothin but a Number”, going platinum and some of the songs goin to number one. Many seemed to disagree with that phrase when the news broke later that year that R. Kelly and Aaliyah got married. She was just 15. Being over a decade older, Kelly faced a lot of scrutiny. By 1995, they were divorced.
Having matured, Aaliyah released her second album “One In A Million”, going multi-platinum and leading her to go on an international tour. She produced some of the songs with Timbaland and Missy Elliot, with her single “If Your Girl Only Knew” going double-platinum. Still in high school, Aaliyah valued her education and graduated with a 4.0 in 1997. In 1998, Aaliyah recorded “Are You That Somebody” for the movie Dr. Dolittle. Later that year, she recorded the song “Journey to the Past” for the movie Anastasia, which was soon nominated for an Academy Award under the category “Best Song”.
Moving into the year of 2000, Aaliyah made her first movie appearance in Romeo Must Die, featuring her song “Try Again”. The soundtrack sold millions and was on Billboard for weeks, making “Try Again” her first No. 1 on the pop charts. In 2001, released in 2002, Aaliyah starred in a new movie The Queen of the Damned, where she played the role of a vampire queen. She was supposed to star in upcoming films Matrix Reloaded and Revolution, Honey, and Sparkle, but she never got to fulfill those roles. In July of 2001, Aaliyah released her last album, self-titled Aaliyah. The album sold over 2 million copies and hit No. 2 on the US charts. Two of the most popular singles on the album were “We Need a Resolution” and “Rock the Boat”. On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others traveled to the Bahamas on a small passenger plane to film the music video for her single “Rock the Boat”. Unfortunately, they never made it, their plane crashing soon after take-off, tragically killing Aaliyah and all eight others. She was just 22. With so much more to give to the world, Aaliyah never got to fulfill the rest of her dreams, but made a mark on the music industry with the short amount of time she had.
Although Aaliyah was very unique in her style of music, some of her contemporaries were Brandy, TLC and Destiny’s Child.
Aaliyah was an influencer, her fashion being sought after by many. Her signature look was baggy pants and oversized t-shirts, growing up loving her dad and brother’s clothes.
2002 – Best Video: More Than a Woman – Winner
2002 – Best Dance Video: More Than a Woman – Winner
2002 – Best International Act – Winner
2002 – Best Video: Rock The Boat – Winner
2002 – Best Video Female R&B Vocals: We Need A Resolution – Winner
MTV Video Music Awards
2000 – Best Female Video: Try Again – Winner
2000 – Best Video From Film: Try Again – Winner
2002 – Best R&B Video: Rock the Boat – Winner
MTV Movie Awards
1999 – Best Movie Song: Are You That Somebody? – Winner
2001 – Best Movie Song: Try Again – Winner
MTV Europe Music Awards
2001 – Best Song: Try Again – Winner
2003 – Best Song: Rock the Boat – Winner
New Musical Express, UK (NME)
2002 – Record of the Year: More than A Woman – Winner
Pakistan Music Awards
2001 – Best Song from a Female Artist: Try Again – Winner
2001 – Best Song from an International Film: Try Again – Winner
2001 – Best Female Dance Video: Try Again – Winner
Rolling Stone (Title)
2001 – Best R&B Album: Aaliyah – Winner
Soul Train Awards
2001 – Female R&B/Soul Single: Try Again – Winner
2002 – Female R&B/Soul Single: Rock the Boat – Winner
Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards
2002 – Best R&B/Soul Single: Rock the Boat – Winner
2002 – Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year: Rock the Boat – Winner
World Music Awards
2002 – World’s Best Selling Female R&B Artist Of The Year – Winner
Aaliyah was a socialite who was known by and flattered many.
Although Aaliyah’s life was tragically cut short, her talents and successes are not forgotten. She has gone down as one of the most loved and influential R&B artists of all time.