UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000:  Singer Aaliyah arrives at The Theater at Madison Square Garden for the Essence Awards 2001.  (Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Picture Supply: Getty / NY Daily News Archive

The idea of a posthumous album has all the time felt considerably exploitative to me — it is out of the artist’s conceptual and inventive management. Then again, a posthumous physique of labor bridges the hole between nostalgically listening to older music and craving new music paying homage to the great ol’ days. It additionally appears like a peek into an artist’s life that was meant to be a secret, and let’s face it: we’re all nosy. Aaliyah’s posthumous album Unstoppable, nonetheless, upsets me. The artist, dubbed the Princess of R&B, helped pave the way in which for Normani, H.E.R., SZA, Summer time Walker, Teyana Taylor, Tinashe, and It women to return. She’s an inspiration, drawing affect from skills like Sade, Janet Jackson, En Vogue, Whitney Houston, and extra. She embodied womanhood.

And but, Unstoppable solely has male options — a lot of whom have had problematic relationships with ladies. Chris Brown, Drake, and Future are on Unstoppable, and whereas the trio could sound good at the side of Aaliyah, they really feel gross. The Weeknd, Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg, and Timbaland are additionally on the album; The Weeknd’s function has already been met with production-quality backlash, however the latter three make sense to me. Solely time will inform.

The involvement of those rappers renders the album’s feminist title ironic within the worst attainable method.

Aaliyah’s former supervisor, Background Data founder Barry Hankerson, informed Billboard that the Princess of R&B “would love listening to herself with the present stars of the business that she cared a lot about.” I think about she’d additionally love listening to herself alongside the highly effective main ladies in R&B proper now. Hankerson added, “Among the those that Aaliyah preferred are on the album. She liked Snoop Dogg, who’s finished an excellent report in collaboration with Future. They are going in now to refreshen their vocals. Ne-Yo gave us a superb tune; additionally Drake. Timbaland produced the observe that Chris Brown did. It is classic R&B with robust vocals.” This, once more, makes me need to scream. “Classic R&B with robust vocals” finished proper wouldn’t end in a male-dominated album.

The involvement of those rappers renders the album’s feminist title ironic within the worst attainable method. Previous to her dying at age 22 in 2001, the artist’s “mentorship” below convicted sex trafficker R. Kelly had solid a darkish cloud over her profession. As her mentor — and the first songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing however a Quantity — R. Kelly stripped away a level of Aaliyah’s company. The disgraced singer additionally had a short-lived illegal marriage with Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27. After the wedding was annulled at the request of Aaliyah’s family, Hankerson proceeded to take a extra dominant function in her profession. Aaliyah’s profession, in brief, appears to all the time be exploited by males.

Her company was compromised even after dying, because the label govt and proprietor of her music catalog refused to launch her music, except her 1994 debut, on streaming companies. “Aside from that first album, just about the whole the rest of her catalog, together with many by no means launched tracks, has been inexplicably withheld from the general public by Blackground Data. Aaliyah’s Property has all the time been able to share Aaliyah’s musical legacy however has been met with competition and a gross lack of transparency,” Paul LiCalsi, an lawyer for Aaliyah’s property, informed People in August 2020 after the reveal that her albums ΛΛLIYΛH, I Care 4 U, and Ultimate Aaliyah would debut on Spotify. Across the twentieth anniversary of her dying, Hankerson revealed that he would launch the music below the labels Blackground Data 2.0 and EMPIRE — a choice made with out communication with Aaliyah’s property. Her property shared a statement on Twitter starting with #IStandWithAaliyah, stating their frustration with Hankerson for using “shadowy ways with unauthorized initiatives [targeted] to tarnish.” Missy Elliott, who additionally mentored and collaborated with Aaliyah, retweeted the assertion, per Pitchfork.

I stand with Aaliyah, too. And I hope that at some point, her new music will function and be suggested by ladies.


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