Aaliyah, Silenced but Never Forgotten


For years, the rising pop star Aaliyah’s music topped the charts with her amazing lyrics and captivating voice. The world felt touched by her words and really saw her as an inspiration. However, throughout her life, she dealt with many things behind the scenes that ultimately led to some unfinished business later on in her legacy. 

She was born on Jan 16, 1979 in Brooklyn, New York. From an early age, she knew she loved singing and that music was her passion. By the age of 12, she was already signed to a record contract and at 15 she catapulted into the R&B scene. With her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number, selling one million copies and her sophomore album selling over two million, she was quickly becoming a household name. She wasn’t alone; Aaliyah had help from already successful singers like R. Kelly, Missy Elliot, and Timbaland. She had the music industry in the palm of her hands.

Aaliyah also worked in the film and fashion industries. She was in movies like “Romeo Must Die” and “Queen of the Damned.” She was even set to be cast in the upcoming blockbuster “The Matrix.” In 1997, she also became the spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger by campaigning with them and starring in ads and commercials. 

However, in an instant, a tragic plane accident took Alliyah’s voice. It wouldn’t be heard again until 2021, twenty years after her death.

After the singer’s death, there was controversy surrounding the situation. Fans and adorers of Aaliyah noticed they couldn’t listen to her music anymore. It was removed from stores and taken off of streaming platforms. It was essentially barred from being listened to. People were upset they couldn’t continue to support her and carry out her legacy. But why? Why were we unable to access her music until just recently? 

There was much speculation that it had to do with the fact that Aaliyah and R. Kelly were rumored to be seeing each other while she was underage. Considering Kelly’s recent political decline, this theory is easy for the public to believe. Many women came forward about their experiences with sexual abuse by R. Kelly, causing people to question his involvement with Aaliyah as she was just 12 and 15 years old during their “relationship.” A backup dancer spoke up about how she had seen them engaging in inappropriate and illegal acts quite a few times while working closely with them. It was very apparent after their eventual split in 1994 that he had taken advantage of her and Aaliyah wanted nothing to do with him. However, this was not why the singer-songwriter’s music was kept from us.  

After her death, her close friends and family thought it was wise to bar her music from streaming platforms as a way to help themselves grieve and deal with the unexpected loss of their beloved “Princess of R&B.” As to why it was gone for so long, no one has really ever answered and we are unsure as to whether we will actually ever receive a real statement regarding that situation, but finally in 2021 her music was released to streaming platforms like Apple Music, TIDAL, and Amazon Prime Music. 

Her uncle, Barry Hankerson, who is the founder of Blackground Records which owns most of Aaliyah’s music, released a statement regarding the new release of all of her music. He said “Thank you to all of her many fans for keeping her music alive. I’m sorry it took so long, but when you lose a family member so unexpectedly, it takes time to deal with that type of grief. I decided to release Aaliyah’s music in order to keep her legacy alive.” Fans were completely overjoyed filling the comment section with lots of love. 

The discussion around whether her music should have been shared or not goes deep into the topic of ownership, artistry, and consent. There are no definite answers to these questions, but if anyone had to make the decision to share her music we can be gracious that it was the people closest to her, her family.