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New Music Tease Breaks Battle Between Aaliyah's Estate and Former Record Label Into the Open

Photo by Mika Väisänen
Nearly twenty years after Aaliyah’s tragic death in a plane crash at 22 a mysterious website appeared Wednesday. Its cryptic message has fans of the late singer excited and her estate up in arms. 

“Aaliyah is coming,” the stark black and white site proclaims, and after filling out a contact form it becomes apparent that it is her uncle and former manager, Barry Hankerson, who plans on bringing her back.

Links to social media sites from Blackground Records 2.0 are revealed once you enter your info. Hankerson’s original label Blackground Records was founded in 1993 to help his niece get major distribution, with an assist from R. Kelly, whom he managed at the time. 

Fans and pundits have extrapolated from the message that the popular R&B singer’s music will finally become available to stream. Feuding between Hankerson and Aaliyah’s estate have kept all but her debut LP, 1994’s “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” off streaming services. Hankerson controls the master recordings of the rest of her music catalog. 

The estate cemented that assumption, quickly releasing a statement in defiance of the moves made by Hankerson and his label. 

Protecting Aaliyah’s legacy is, and will always be, our focus. For 20 years we have battled behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception with unauthorized projects targeted to tarnish,” the statement read. “We have always been confused as to why there is such a tenacity in causing more pain alongside what we already have to cope with for the rest of our lives.

“Now, in this 20th year, this unscrupulous endeavor to release Aaliyah’s music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate compels our hearts to express a word — forgiveness.

The passionate plea divided Aaliyah fans on social media, with many calling for her music to be made available and others echoing the #IStandWithAaliyah hashtag the estate signs off with and vowing to not stream the music if it is released. 

What will happen remains to be seen, but what is clear is the momentous impact she had on music, film, and urban culture in her short career. Mentored by and briefly married to R. Kelly at age 15, her first album sold over three million copies in the United States. She would go on to earn 12 top 40 singles in the U.S. and 17 top 40 singles in the U.K., was nominated for five Grammy Awards and sold over 30 million records worldwide.

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