There are few R&B singers to make an impact on hip-hop and R&B the way Aaliyah Dana Haughton did. In her professional career, the Brooklyn-born, Detroit-raised beauty was on the cusp of becoming a superstar. But in nine years since her tragic death, her impact on music continues to resonate. Here, we take a look at five artists helping to keep Baby Girl’s memory alive.
5. Keri Hilson
She’s just beginning to make a name for herself, but Keri Hilson has the sweet, girl-next-door vibe that Aaliyah made famous. In addition to collaborating with some of today’s hottest male R&B singers on bedroom anthems, Keri’s not afraid to dance or show a little skin. All of it coming together to boost her sex symbol status.
4. Andre 3000
Outkast rapper Andre 3000 sampled the title track to Aaliyah’s debut, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number for his song “Pink and Blue” off his Grammy Award-winning album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. On the track, he channels the theme of the “Romeo Must Die” star’s single by trying to convince an older woman that her age is unimportant to him.
At the time of her death, Aaliyah was seriously dating Roc-A-Fella co-founder Damon Dash, one of Jay-Z’s closest friends at the time. Aaliyah was also a close companion of Hov’s, and the rapper would go on to pay homage to the singer adding a verse to her posthumous single “Miss You.” When on tour, Jay has memorably set aside out a portion of his show in which he performs the song in tribute to his friend.
Rap newcomer Drake never met Aaliyah, but listening to his music, you’d never know it. On Drizzy’s track “Unforgettable” featuring Young Jeezy off Thank Me Later, the Young Money flagship artist samples Aaliyah’s “At Your Best You Are Love,” from her debut. Drake also references the singer on “Bedrock” off the YM compilation (“Girl, I gotta watch my back, ’cause I’m not just anybody”), drawing from her hit “Are You That Somebody.”
Hit the jump to see our #1 pick, and to see a clip of the artist remembering Aaliyah.
Aside from being one of the few female R&B singers today to have worked extensively with Aaliyah’s dear friend and songwriting partner Missy Elliott and to have been given the green light by Baby Girl’s mentor, Timbaland. Like Aaliyah, the Atlanta native launched her singing career with a tomboy persona and over the years has grown into quite the lady. But it’s her dancing prowess that most reminds people of Aaliyah. Out of today’s crop of newcomers, Ciara remains the one to inherit the Aaliyah mantel.
Ciara spoke with Sucker Free’s DJ Envy about the impact the singer continues to have on the industry nine years later. “She kind of carved a lane that I feel like can never be repeated or, you know, filled,” Ciara said. “It’s just, she really created her own world and … she had a very sweet presence within music.”
What are your favorite Aaliyah memories? Let us know in the comments!