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The Rise of Aaliyah

Every little girl was inspired to be Aaliyah, with her baggy clothes, sunglasses, and long slick brown hair. She made such an impact on the music industry in such little time. Today we will take a look at Aaliyah’s life as we discuss “The Rise of Aaliyah.”



The Beginning: On January 16th, 1979, Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn, New York. She began voice lessons at a very young age and started doing performances at weddings, charity events and even sang in the church choir. She moved to Detroit at five years old and attended a Catholic School. She was in her first school play in the first grade and after this, she was inspired to become an entertainer. Her mother and uncle were in the music industry, which led to Aaliyah being around music at a young age. She appeared on Star Search at only 10 years old and began auditioning for more roles and record labels.


Career: Her uncle Barry Hankerson signed a distribution deal with Jive Records and also signed Aaliyah to his record label Blackground Records when she was 12 years old. This led to her introduction to R.Kelly, who Aaliyah looked up to as a mentor. He wrote and produced her first album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number and she was only 14 at the time. Her mother decided to drop her surname when she first got into the music business, so she continued to go by Aaliyah. Her debut album dropped in 1994, and was at 24 on the Billboard 200 chart. She sold 74,000 copies in the first week but ended up selling over three million copies in the U.S, and was certified two times Platinum. Her debut single “Back & Forth” was high on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Sings chart for three weeks and certified Gold. Other successful singles on her album were “At Your Best (You Are Love), and “The Thing I Like”, which was also apart of the soundtrack for film A Low Down Dirty Shame.


In 1996, Aaliyah left Jive Records and moved on to Atlantic Records where she worked with producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott. They helped her release her second album One in a Million. Her second album came in at 18 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 8 million copies worldwide. One in a Million was certified double platinum a year later once it was released. The teenager still attended school at the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts. She majored in drama and graduated in 1997 earning a perfect 4.0 gpa. Right after graduating, she began her acting career and also became a spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger. She contributed to the soundtrack for the children's movie Anastasia and released “Are You That Somebody” for the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack, which she received her first Grammy nomination for.


In 1999, Aaliyah made her film debut in Romeo Must Die and the film was quite successful earning $18.6 million in the first opening week. She also was an executive producer for the movie’s soundtrack, and her single “Try Again” was so popular that it was released on vinyl and single. The soundtrack sold 1.5 million copies in the U.S. The music video for “Try Again” won Aaliyah the Best Female Video and Best Video from a film at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, plus another Grammy nomination.


Going on to 2001, she worked on her second film Queen of the Damned. Her acting interrupted the release of her second album and she often tried to have a good balance between the two, but singing was always number one for her. Finally her second album Aaliyah released on July 17th, 2001, five years after One in a Million. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and sold 187,000 copies in the first week. “We Need a Resolution” was the hit single and peaked at 59 on the Billboard Hot 100. A week after her tragic death her album numbers rose and “Rock the Boat” “More than a Woman” and “I Care 4 U” were released. The album became certified platinum and sold 2.6 million copies in the U.S. Fans were able to get a glimpse into Aaliyahs’ life by the showing of MTV’s show Diary behind-the-scenes in July of 2001.


Aaliyah was signed to appear in films such as Honey, Some Kind of Blue, and Sparkle, but didn’t get a chance to fulfill. Sparkle was shelved for some time after her death, but was released in 2012. She was also supposed to collaborate with the Isley Brothers before her death as well, because of her cover from the Isley Brothers’ single “At Your Best (You Are Love).


There’s been plenty of rumors about Aaliyah and R.Kelly’s relationship and they were confirmed true. She was married to R.Kelly at only 15 years old, but she had lied about her age at the time. Since her death, he won’t discuss any details about his relationship with her out of respect for her parents.


Aaliyah’s death hit hard for everyone. The young star was just getting started, but on August 25th, 2001, her and eight others were killed in a plane crash. She just finished filming her music video for “Rock the Boat” and was headed back home. It was stated that the plane had too many people aboard and exceeded the limit. The pilot also wasn’t approved to fly the plane but flew anyway and also had traces of alcohol and cocaine in his system. Her funeral was held on August 31st, 2001.


Aaliyah was gone, but still winning awards. She received two awards at the American Music Awards and in February her second film Queen of the Damned was released. I Care 4 U the album was released and it obtained some unreleased music from the artist. The hit single “Miss You” was number three on the charts. Aaliyah continues to make an impact in the music industry as some artists are still featuring her in songs. Chris Brown, T-Pain, Tink, just to name a few. She was ranked 70 on Billboard's Top Artists of the Decade, among other honors.

Aaliyah stated "I breathe to perform, to entertain, I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I'm just a really happy girl right now. I honestly love every aspect of this business. I really do. I feel very fulfilled and complete." She will go down as a legend and her spirit and influence will live on forever. Aaliyah was definitely gone too soon, but will never be forgotten. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode as we looked into Aaliyah’s very short lived career.


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