Aaliyah was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.
Aaliyah signed with her uncle Barry Hankerson's Blackground label in
1993 and released her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, in
1994. The album reached platinum status and featured the Gold-selling
singles "Back and Forth", "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" and "At
Your Best (You Are Love)," a cover of the 1976 Isley Brothers single.
It was briefly rumored that in 1994, when she was 15, she was married
to R&B singer/songwriter R. Kelly, the producer of Age Ain't Nothing
but a Number. VIBE magazine in 1995 published a copy of their marriage
certificate and claimed Aaliyah had falsified her age as 18 so she
and Kelly could be married. Both parties had the marriage quickly annulled
when the press found out about the union. R. Kelly did not work on
any of Aaliyah's future recordings.
One in a Million (1996)
One in a Million, Aaliyah's second album, was chiefly written and produced
by then unknowns Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and Tim "Timbaland" Mosley
and released on August 27, 1996. The album eventually went triple platinum,
making Aaliyah a major R&B star and igniting the successful careers
of Elliott and Timbaland. One in a Million featured the international
smash hit "If Your Girl Only Knew," the platinum single "One
in a Million," and the gold single "The One I Gave My Heart
To," a ballad written by Diane Warren. Other singles from the
album included "Got To Give It Up," "4 Page Letter," and "Hot
like Fire". Tommy Hilfiger took notice of Aaliyah's "street
but sweet" image and immediately signed Aaliyah onto print campaigns,
runway shows, and a commercial. During this period, Aaliyah would also
make guest appearances on albums by artists such as Missy Elliott,
Timbaland & Magoo, Ginuwine and Playa, and Elliott, Timbaland and
Playa's frontman Steve "Static" Garrett would remain Aaliyah's
principal collaborators for the duration of her career.
Movie roles and soundtracks
In 1997, Aaliyah appeared on the soundtrack album for the 1997 Fox
Animation Studios animated feature Anastasia, singing the pop version
of "Journey to the Past". The song was nominated for an
Academy Award, and Aaliyah performed the song at the 1997 Academy
Awards ceremony, becoming the first and youngest African-American
female recording artist to perform at the yearly ceremony.
Aaliyah had a huge hit in 1998 with "Are You that Somebody," the
main single from the Doctor Doolittle soundtrack. Its video was the
third most played on MTV that year, and the song's success began to
make Aaliyah a household name.
In 2000, she co-starred with Jet Li in the martial-arts film Romeo
Must Die. The film was notable for its mainstream success when featuring
Asian and African American characters in the lead roles with few white
Americans in the cast. Aaliyah contributed four songs to the film's
soundtrack album, including "Back in One Piece," a duet with
DMX (who has a minor role in Romeo Must Die), and the international
smash "Try Again." "Try Again" was the first song
ever to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 based solely on the
strength of its radio airplay, without any single sales factored (a
12" maxi single was released for consumer purchase, but only after
the song had peaked).
In 2002, she was showcased in her final role as Akasha in the film
adaptation of the Anne Rice novel The Queen of the Damned.
Prior to Aaliyah's death, she was attached to several movie projects
such as the remake of "Sparkle," a film in which Whitney
Houston's company was to be producing, "Some Kind of Blue," both
2 and 3 of the Matrix sequals, "Honey," and 3 other films.
We Need a Resolution," the first single from Aaliyah's self-titled,
double-platinum third album, was released in spring of 2001. The album
was a critical success, and the video for "We Need a Resolution" received
heavy MTV2 play. Most of Aaliyah was recorded in Australia, as the
singer was filming scenes for Queen of the Damned, released by Warner
Bros. in 2002. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts, and
before her death, the album had already sold Gold (500,000 copies).
In the summer of 2001, Aaliyah filmed the video for Aaliyah's intended
second single, "More than a Woman". After the video was completed,
however, it was decided "Rock the Boat" should be the second
single instead, and the "More than a Woman" video was temporarily
Rock The Boat" video shoot
Aaliyah traveled to the Bahamas in August 2001 to film the "Rock
the Boat" video with director Hype Williams. After filming was
completed, Aaliyah and her entourage boarded a small airplane, which
was to take them to Miami, Florida. The plane took off but quickly
descended and crashed in the forest. All nine people aboard, including
Aaliyah, the pilot and the other seven passengers, were killed in the
crash. Some died immediately; some later, in the hospital. Investigators
determined the plane was overloaded by several hundred pounds, and
an autopsy revealed cocaine and alcohol in the pilot's blood. Reports
have also suggested the pilot of the plane falsely obtained his licence
from Black Hawk Airways by showing hundreds of hours never flown, which
suggests he was not qualified to pilot the plane in the first place.
Aaliyah's death affected her family, friends, fans and the entertainment
industry as a whole. At the time of her death, Aaliyah had been dating
Roc-a-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash, who grieved publicly over her passing.
Friends such as Missy Elliott and Timbaland praised Aaliyah as an inspirational
and talented individual. "Rock the Boat" went on to become
a posthumous hit on radio and video channels, and the news of Aaliyah's
death gave her album a notable sales boost, pushing it to #1 on The
Billboard 200. The album's two subsequent singles, "More than
A Woman" and "I Care 4 U," were also hits, the latter
attaining success even without the promotional push of a music video.
In 2002, a posthumous greatest hits collection, I Care 4 You, was
released in Aaliyah's name. In addition to well-known hits, it also
included six previously unreleased songs from the Blackground vaults
Aaliyah had recorded over the course of her career, including "Miss
You," which became the album's lead single. Its video features
Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Toni Braxton and DMX, among others, paying
tribute to Aaliyah.
Aaliyah was to have had a supporting role as the wife of Harold Perrineau
Jr.'s character in the two sequels to The Matrix; her role was ultimately
filled by Nona Gaye. Other films in which Aaliyah was signed to star
in were Honey (which instead was filmed with Jessica Alba as the star),
and a Whitney Houston-produced remake of the 1976 film Sparkle. In
addition, Aaliyah and one of her agents had pitched and inked a deal
with Fox Searchlight Pictures for her to star in a film based upon
a true story about interracial love.
Aaliyah is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale,