The Controversy Behind Aaliyah’s Music Being Released After 20 Years

Although she passed 20 years ago, Aaliyah Haughton is no stranger to the music industry and the fans within it.


Although she passed 20 years ago, Aaliyah Haughton is no stranger to the music industry and the fans within it. The Grammy-nominated powerhouse was killed in a plane crash in 2001, leaving us only with her memorable talents. Aaliyah’s music has been replayed and sampled but it has yet to make its way onto major streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify. Well, until now. Tracks from the late R&B/pop superstar will have a staggered release on top streaming sites and on physical formats such as CD, vinyl and cassettes too, after being stalled in a legal limbo for years.



Born in Brooklyn, New York in January of 1979, Aaliyah was set on becoming a star. She began voice lessons shortly after learning to talk and signed to a contract with Jive Records at the age of 12. Young and determined, Aaliyah had previously performed with R&B legend Gladys Knight at a five-night stand in Las Vegas. And, by the age of 15 she propelled her way onto the R&B charts with her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number– the only album of her that has been available for streaming. That album was [ironically] produced by singer R. Kelly who was rumored to have married the young star when he was 27 and she was 15. However, Aaliyah denied the union and their marriage was reportedly annulled.

Aaliyah worked with famous names in music such as Timbaland and Missy Elliot and even went on to pursue some acting in 2000. She appeared in the action hit film Romeo Must Die and she played the title role in Queen of the Damned which was based on the bestselling novel by Anne Rice. Unfortunately, the born star was tragically killed on August 25th, 2001 in a plane crash. A small Cessna passenger plane was carrying her and her video crew when it crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff from the Bahamas. It was reported that her (22 years old) and seven other passengers, along with the pilot, died instantly. The ninth passenger was reported dead later on at a Bahamian hospital. 

Controversy Behind The Release

Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager, Barry Hankerson, went live this past wednesday promoting the hashtag #AaliyahIsComing. Hankerson has come together with Aaliyah’s label, Empire, for the release of her music; however, the late singer’s estate has exhibited reservations about the deal. Hankerson recently participated in an interview with Billboard where he claimed to have had a conversion with Aaliyah’s mom, Diane Haughton, about the release. Although, Diane and her son Rashad Haughton claim that that conversation didn’t take place. Her estate, being run by her mother and brother, has “always been ready” to release Aaliyah’s music to the general public but has consistently encountered heavy disagreements on doing so according to the estates attorney Paul LiCalsi.

On January 15, 2021, Aaliyah’s estate released a statement to twitter acknowledging fans asking for her music and explaining why it had been withheld for so long. It wrote: “We hear you and we see you. While we share your sentiments and desire to have Aaliyah’s music released. We must acknowledge that these matters are not within our control. And, unfortunately, takes time. Our inability to share Aaliyah’s music and artistry with the world has been difficult for us as it has been for all of you. Our priority has always been and will continue to be Aaliyah’s music.”

LiCalsi said in a statement given to Pitchfork, “Other than that first album, virtually the entire remainder of her catalog, including many never released tracks, has been inexplicably withheld from the public by Blackground Records. The estate has demanded that Blackground provide a full account of its past earnings, and full disclosure of the terms of its new deal to distribute Aaliyah’s long embargoed music.”

Several lawsuits were filed against Blackground Records from Toni Braxton, JoJo and others due to a breach of contract following Aaliyah’s death. However, Blackground 2.0 revealed that artists will be compensated for “everything” according to their agreement. But, JoJo retaliated letting them know that she doesn’t receive anything for the streams of her original releases.

Release Dates and Albums


Blackground Records 2.0 will be releasing albums from Aaliyahs on all streaming and digital platforms beginning late August.

  • August 20th: Aaliyah – One In A Million 
  • August 27th: Timbaland & Magoo – Welcome To Our World, Indecent Proposal and Under Construction, Part II + Timbaland – Tim’s Bio 
  • September 3rd: Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds Movie soundtracks 
  • September 10th: Aaliyah – ΛΛLIYΛH 
  • September 17th: Tank – Force of Nature, One Man and Sex, Love & Pain 
  • September 24th: JoJo – JoJo and The High Road & Ashley Parker Angel – Soundtrack To Your Life 
  • October 1st: Toni Braxton – Libra 
  • October 8th: Aaliyah – I Care 4 U and Ultimate Aaliyah compilation