By combining angelic vocals with a quiet confidence and hip-hop flavor, Aaliyah brought a new edge to R&B in the ‘90s. Born Aaliyah Dana Haughton in Brooklyn in 1979, raised in Detroit, the artist was surrounded by music at an early age: Her mother, who was also a singer, enrolled Aaliyah in voice lessons as a preschooler. Aaliyah competed on the TV talent show Star Search at age 10; though she lost, Aaliyah performed in Las Vegas a year later with the esteemed Gladys Knight, her aunt through marriage. By the time she reached her mid-teens, Aaliyah gained significant footing in the R&B world with her 1994 debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, which was highlighted by the energetic party-starter “Back & Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love),” an elegant Isley Brothers cover. Her 1996 follow-up, One in a Million, pushed R&B into the future via production duo Timbaland and Missy Elliott’s skittering beats and forward-thinking songwriting, earning Aaliyah the nickname of the Queen of Urban Pop. Aaliyah released her self-titled album in 2001, a mature, sensuous take on the contemporary sound she became well-known for; it was also the final project before she died that August in a plane crash. After her death, Aaliyah became a beloved and highly referenced figure in music, even decades later. In 2012, rap star Drake released a collaborative track, “Enough Said,” which prominently featured her signature ethereal harmonies. Two years later, trap&B singer Chris Brown used Aaliyah’s vocals on the mystical, modernized “Don’t Think They Know.” But even in the absence of any direct samples, you can still hear Aaliyah's voice and vision in the cinematic R&B of Beyoncé and avant-garde soul of FKA twigs.
HOMETOWNNew York, NY [Brooklyn]
BORNJanuary 16, 1979