Aaliyah’s Estate Speaks Out Against “Unauthorized Projects” From Her Uncle

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Aaliyah’s Estate Speaks Out Against “Unauthorized Projects” From Her Uncle

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of Aaliyah’s death. The great R&B star died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001, at the age of 22. For years, the bulk of Aaliyah’s music hasn’t been on any streaming services. Right now, only Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number is readily available for streaming. Aaliyah’s uncle Barry Hankerson, who founded her label Blackground Entertainment and who controls her masters, recently started a social-media campaign with the hashtag #Aaliyahiscoming, teasing the idea that her music might finally head to streaming services. But it sure looks like the rest of Aaliyah’s family isn’t happy with the arrangement.

The Detroit News reports that Blackground, which hasn’t released an album since Timbaland’s Shock Value II in 2009, recently relaunched its Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok pages. Hankerson founded Blackground in 1993, and the label released all of Aaliyah’s music. (After Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, Hankerson moved Blackout from Jive to Atlantic.) Hankerson also introduced Aaliyah to R. Kelly, who produced her debut album and who also secretly married her when she was 15, something that Aaliyah’s family had annulled.

In response to Hankerson’s campaign, Aaliyah’s family has launched its own #IStandWithAaliyah hashtag. In somewhat cryptic language, Aaliyah’s executors blast this new campaign:

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

Although we will continue to defend ourselves and her legacy lawfully and justly, we want to preempt the inevitable attacks on our character by all the individuals who have emerged from the shadows to leech off Aaliyah’s life’s work. Ultimately, we desire closure and a modicum of peace so we can facilitate the growth of the Aaliyah Memorial Fund and other creative projects that embody Aaliyah’s true essence, which is to inspire strength and positivity for people of all creed, races, and cultures around the world.

A year ago, Aaliyah’s estate announced confidently that it was in negotiations to bring her music to streaming services, but it seems like this mess might not be resolved anytime soon.

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