Aaliyah Haughton’s music will finally be available to stream.
The late pop star’s uncle Barry Hankerson, founder of her former label Blackground Records, has reached a distribution deal with EMPIRE that will bring her catalogue to streaming services starting August 20. According to Spotify, Aaliyah’s catalogue will release over the course of two months, starting with her Timbaland- and Missy Elliott–produced album, One in a Million, and ending with I Care 4 U and Ultimate Aaliyah on October 8.
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Aaliyah’s biggest hits have been missing from streaming platforms for more than two decades, and the one full album that is available now, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, has been marred by the allegations against its writer and executive producer, R. Kelly. As we near the 20th anniversary of the singer’s untimely death at age 22, fans got a surprise announcement yesterday: Aaliyah is coming.
The tease, which included a website and social media accounts, seemed to point to the upcoming release of Aaliyah’s catalogue onto streaming platforms, with all pages linking back to Hankerson, who controls Aaliyah’s master recordings.
The announcement of Blackground Records’ deal with EMPIRE comes a day after the estate of Aaliyah Houghton, which is run by Aaliyah LLC on behalf of her mother, Diane Haughton, and her brother, Rashad Haughton, released an official statement speaking out against the Aaliyah Is Coming campaign. The statement, released through Rashad’s social media accounts, said that the campaign was an “unscrupulous endeavor to release Aaliyah’s music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate.”
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Though there has been an ongoing battle behind the scenes between Hankerson and Aaliyah’s estate, the estate has recently considered releasing her entire discography online. Last year, the estate announced that it had begun discussions with various record labels about “the status of Aaliyah’s music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming platforms in the near future,” per Variety.
However, Aaliyah’s estate alleges that the Blackground deal to release Aaliyah’s music happened without the estate’s knowledge. Aaliyah LLC attorney Paul LiCalsi said in a statement to Billboard that the estate was not told about the impending release of the late singer’s catalogue until the deal was complete. The estate also made clear that they do not support the upcoming release, according to Billboard.
There have been reports of Hankerson and members of Aaliyah’s family representing her estate being at odds many times since the late pop star’s death in 2001. Aaliyah’s family has remained out of the public eye since her death, and very little information has come out about the reasons Aaliyah’s music has not been released, per Variety. However, the estate said in a letter to Aaliyah’s fans in January that they “share your sentiments and desire to have Aaliyah’s music release,” continuing that the catalogue was not within their control and that they were protecting Aaliyah’s legacy.
— Aaliyah (@AaliyahHaughton) January 15, 2021
Meanwhile, Hankerson has tried to release Aaliyah’s music many times. He was reportedly behind the mysterious release of 25 of Aaliyah’s greatest hits onto iTunes and Apple Music in 2017. The 2005 collection Ultimate was mysteriously uploaded and then taken down from the Apple streaming services within 24 hours.
Hankerson also tried to release a posthumous Aaliyah album produced by Drake in 2012. The album was said to have 16 unreleased songs with features and contributions from Drake, her former producer and close friend Timbaland, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, according to The Daily Beast. The single “Enough Said” featuring Drake dropped in 2012, but the rest of the album was not released.
As of now, the release of Aaliyah’s catalogue will move forward without the support from her estate. Despite any mixed feelings, fans can at least celebrate that YouTube is no longer the only place they can find Baby Girl’s greatest hits.
From Harper’s Bazaar US