AllHipHop Remembers Aaliyah

Seven years ago to the day, we lost Aaliyah Haughton. As we’ve witnessed talented artists pass on throughout history, we begin to relate their deaths with what we were doing when we found out. Our parents probably remember where they were when they found out John Lennon died or Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley. For many of us there were the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, and Aaliyah ranks right up there. Most music lovers (and especially Aaliyah fans) remember exactly what they were doing on August 25, 2001 when the world said goodbye to Baby Girl. We lost her too soon at the age of 22, right at the peak of her career. Aaliyah was the original protégé of Missy Elliott and Timbaland, with whom they would test their production styles in an effort to create was most still fall short of making today. A dancer, singer, actor, and all around entertainer, Aaliyah’s greatest gift to us was interpretation. Whether it be a role, a beat, or a sheet of music, Aaliyah wrapped herself in the creativity of her projects as if they were made for her. What she felt, we felt, and that’s why her death hit the industry so hard. As private as she was with her life, Aaliyah was all of our best friends. Girls aspired to be her; boys aspired to marry her. Thankfully, we’re left with a catalog of hits that after a second listen are so obviously the blueprints for much music today. The AllHipHop staff compiled their favorite Aaliyah tracks – some commercially known, others b-sides and remixes. Share your favorites too as we celebrate the life of a true fallen angel.“At Your Best” (remix) featuring R. Kelly – Being from Chicago, me and my peers took a special liking to her right away because she was the R. Kelly protégé and because she was close to us in age. Although her career was cut short by tragedy in 2001, her memory will always live vividly in the new generation of R&B singers and in my iPod. R.I.P Aaliyah, it just ain’t the same without you! – Nia B“Read Between the Lines” – Aaliyah’s professional relationship with Stephen “Static Major” Garret was perhaps second only in importance to her work with Timbaland himself. While not one of her better-known works, this theatric, space-age flamenco co-written by Static (who also provides vocals) perfectly displays the duo’s ability to step outside of traditional R&B, yet still remain relatable to a Pop audience. A bittersweet reminder of two wonderful careers cut short. – Alex Thornton“What If” – Channeling a bit of Akasha from Queen of the Damned, “What If” once again makes a dramatic stylistic leap feel natural. Instead of closing Aaliyah with the typical slow jam, Aaliyah fires a Heavy Metal warning shot at any man who might dare try to play her. At end of her last album, we were left knowing that Aaliyah was talented and beautiful, but more importantly, she could kick your ass. – Alex Thornton“More Than a Woman” – It is impossible to talk about the Goddess that was Aaliyah without mentioning her talents as a dancer. Each Aaliyah video presented fans with a new opportunity to watch and say “That’s dope! How’d she do that?” Among her many dance packed videos “More Than A Woman” was definitely one of her best. Aside from being on the cutting edge by featuring a then little known Mark Ronson, the video and the song introduced us to a more grown and sexy Aaliyah. And we enjoyed every single minute of it. – Kiko Michaels“Try Again” – This song undoubtedly gave hope to many guys that the girl of their dreams was just one “no” away from saying “yes!” and it made everyone dance in the process. It also helped feed Aaliyah mania as fans had a movie (Romeo Must Die) as well as Aaliyah’s hit song from the soundtrack to be excited about. And as always, the video was something special with intricate choreography, an energy that almost made it jump from the screen, and a swagger that only Aaliyah could provide. – Kiko Michaels“I Need You Tonight” with Junior M.A.F.I.A. – They say you can’t pour syrup on s**t and make pancakes, but this club single from the mid ‘90s sure made a great attempt.  Lil Kim spitting with her Hardcore Chris Wallace written best with the soft, yet “drunk girl in the club” singable Aaliyah chorus almost made everything alright. Then it’s 4 a.m., you wake up next to the ugly dude/girl and you realize it’s a “Junior Mafia single.” Sigh.  – Odeisel“Got To Give It Up” featuring Slick Rick – Thanks to Missy Elliott’s songwriting and Timbaland’s drum ‘n bass flavored grooves, One in a Million is the album that made Aaliyah a star. But it was the Marvin Gaye remake “Got To Give It Up” that was my favorite cut on said album. An upbeat track, Aaliyah’s playful vocals and The Ruler’s witty lyrics made this an underrated jam. Should have been an official single (it was in the UK). – Alvin Blanco“Are You That Somebody” – With Timbaland providing the baby cooing and giggling in the background and Miss Haughton teasing us with shades of being “goody goody” and sometimes “naughty naughty” (especially the mature and sexy vibe of the flamenco dance at the end of the video), this track was a worthy addition to her already stellar catalogue. – Chris Richburg“I Can Be” – One thing about Aaliyah that was so magical (among many things) was her ability to flawlessly interpret the songs written for her. Not a songwriter herself (with the exception of “Death of Playa” which she co-wrote with her brother), Aaliyah channeled every relevant emotion into the songs she sang. “I Can Be” succeeded in its electronically futuristic approach to what most deem now as that “European” sound. However, once the heavy digi-guitars broke into the hook, Aaliyah transformed into a dark vulnerable woman suggesting she be a mistress to a man instead of losing him. It was quite risqué for a girl who adopted a low profile throughout her career. She tested those waters and thoroughly succeeded. – Kathy Iandoli“Are You Feelin’ Me” – From the Romeo Must Die soundtrack. This song opens with bells that ring victory. Aaliyah coyly asks if her love interest is feelin’ her, because she’s feelin’ him. That was the thing about Aaliyah – when she wanted to be cocky, she knew how to be and then some…without coming across as a diva. She could’ve taught a course on swag for us girls. – Kathy Iandoli“Don’t Know What To Tell Ya” – Originally unreleased, this song arrived after Aaliyah’s death. I remember hearing it and being so depressed that we’d never get to see a video.  From the introductory bouncy horns that develop into a belly dancing inspired beat, this song was our second real taste of Timbo’s love of Indian/Middle Eastern culture in his production (“We Need a Resolution” kicked it off). You could almost envision Aaliyah shrugging as she sang, “Well yo, I don’t know what to tell ya” as she’s reading her man the Riot Act for being overbearing. Despite the fact that we never got to see Aaliyah sing this, I’m ever so thankful that the song surfaced. – Kathy Iandoli“One In a Million” – Ok so this is such a cliché opening line, but it’s also the truth. Aaliyah was truly one in a million; no album/song title could be more fitting for her. From start to finish, the One In A Million album is a priceless slice of R&B history: the original “Timbaland” sound made its debut, Missy Elliott was introduced – and it’s probably the best incorporation of Missy’s sound ever. The album was a sonic portrait of a young woman who was confident, gentle, elegant, alluring, mysterious, positive, down-to-earth, and fun. She effortlessly conveyed on record an air of “realness.”It’s still hard to believe she was only seventeen when this album was released – the album signaled a change in the sound of R&B music forever paving the way for artist’s like; Monica, Brandy, Ciara, Beyonce, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. One of the best tracks from this album has to be the title track One In A Million. Armed with beat-heavy production, it’s street-savvy R&B that remains ahead of its time. Just like Aaliyah. R.I.P.  “Baby Girl.” – Archna Sawjani“Four Page Letter” – Soft, Smooth, Mellow. Another classic Aaliyah and Timbaland collaboration. The story of a girl who expresses emotion through the pen was an anthem that ink slingers worldwide could sing in unison. I still can’t get to the end of page three without singing this song. – Jamile Karout“The One I Gave My Heart To” – If break ups had a soundtrack, this song would definitely be on it. Raw emotion became center stage for Aaliyah’s angelic range. Whether a trip down memory lane or chicken soup for the brokenhearted soul, “The One I Gave My Heart To” took us on a journey through loves dark side. – Jamile KaroutR.I.P. Aaliyah1/16/79 – 8/25/01

Related Stories