Back in 2001, fans and loved ones were devastated to learn Aaliyah died when her plane abruptly burst into flames after taking off in the Bahamas. In the years that followed her tragic death, many of her most important works remained, and continue to remain, virtually unavailable – but why?
In a recent article titled The Inexplicable Online Absence of Aaliyah’s Best Music, Complex gets to the root of the issue and brings up some interesting points along the way. Below are five of the most gripping.
1. Aaliyah was groomed for stardom by her uncle, Barry Hankerson, who also introduced her to suspected statutory rapist R. Kelly:
“To understand Aaliyah, and the fate of her iconic catalog, you have to understand her uncle, Barry Hankerson, who groomed the singer for stardom from a young age as her manager and the co-founder of her label home, Blackground Records.”
The site continues, “Tiffany Hawkins, one of his earliest alleged victims, met Kelly in 1991 at the age of 15. Enticed by promises of stardom, Hawkins claimed in a civil suit that she had sex with Kelly, and that he had her participate in group sex with other underage girls. When Hawkins turned 18, she says, Kelly dumped her. She attempted suicide. Numerous other young women would make similar allegations in the years to come; Kelly avoided conviction, often opting for out-of-court settlements.
How much did Hankerson know? It’s impossible to say. Still, if he had indeed heard or suspected anything—at least in 1991—it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from introducing Kelly to his 12-year-old niece, Aaliyah Haughton.”
2. Hankerson also launched a host of other A-list acts, many of whom would directly influence Aaliyah’s international success:
“The 70-year-old Harlem native was an extraordinary figure in the music business, who helped launch not just Aaliyah’s career, but also those of R. Kelly, Ginuwine, Timbaland, and Missy Elliott. But his achievements remain shrouded in mystery.”
3. There’s a good chance Hankerson tipped the press off about R. Kelly allegedly urinating into the mouth of an underage girl:
“In February 2002, seven months after Aaliyah’s death, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jim DeRogatis received an anonymous videotape in the mail, showing a man who looked exactly like R. Kelly urinating into the mouth of a underage girl. DeRogatis, who had already been investigating Kelly’s reputation as a statutory rapist, immediately turned the tape over to the police. In a published transcript with the victim’s mother, DeRogatis later speculated on the identity of his source, using initials instead of full names: ‘I’m sure that tape came by B.H.,’ he said. ‘He’s tired of seeing young girls get hurt.’”
4. Thanks to Hankerson, the only Aaliyah album online is Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number:
“Right now, the only Aaliyah album legally available online is Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, the one that Hankerson doesn’t control the masters for, and the one where she sings lyrics penned by the suspected pedophile she was fraudulently married to. This does not honor her legacy.”
5. Hankerson never fully recovered from Aaliyah’s death. As a result, both he and his niece’s music continue to fade:
“…And the wound left by Aaliyah’s death remains raw: “Barry can’t be in the room when the new music is playing,” says Lafargue. Grief turned to despondency; despondency turned to inertia. Inexplicably, Blackground stopped releasing music, and artists stopped getting paid. As the music business moved from CDs to MP3s, and MP3s to streaming media, Blackground didn’t participate.”
Click here for the full read, plus more interesting facts about Aaliyah’s life below.