Twenty years ago from today we lost R&B/pop sensation Aaliyah. Every August 25 since 2001 has been bittersweet, stirring a multitude of emotions for music fans everywhere. Each time another year passes without Aaliyah her presence is steadily missed, and so is her artistry.
Every album by Baby Girl has expressed a different element of herself, as well as served as the groundwork for the urban pop genre. Songs like One In A Million, Back and Forth and Try Again were game changers, setting Aaliyah in her own lane and earning her the “Princess of R&B” title.
Aaliyah’s soft magnetic vocals combined with Timbaland’s production—the legendary producer responsible for Aaliyah’s One In A Million album and much of Aaliyah’s music thereafter—was a match made in heaven. The music that Timbaland, Aaliyah and Missy Elliot—a songwriter for Aaliyah in the 90’s—created throughout her career was magical, and still remains untouchable. Though many have tried, nobody has yet to come close the anomalous L-I-Y-A-H, a.k.a. the Queen of Urban Pop.
Aaliyah’s music was so futuristic for its time that it still influences artists of today, and has been sampled by a few. Although I prefer the original of any song, especially if it’s by Baby Girl, below are the top 5 songs that include a dope Aaliyah sample.
Tink’s Million is amazing because she pays homage to Aaliyah by sampling her hit 1996 song One In A Million, leaving it pretty much as is. The addition of DJ scratching, and layering of Tink’s voice atop of Aaliyah’s harmonies is what makes the use of this sample so cool.
Fun Fact: Tink was signed to Grammy-winning music producer Timbaland’s record label Mosley Music Group until 2018. Timbaland was Aaliyah’s top producer and close friend until her passing on August 25, 2001.
Chris Brown- Don’t Think They Know
Chris Brown’s 2013 single Don’t Think They Know was extremely special because it included never-heard-before vocals by Aaliyah. Although the song didn’t directly sample one of Aaliyah’s published songs, Chris Brown including her vocals on the record took the song to new heights.
Drake- Enough Said
Just before Chris Brown used unheard Aaliyah vocals in 2013, Drake collaborated with Aaliyah posthumously the year before in 2012 for his single Enough Said. Drake’s production intertwined with Aaliyah’s delicate vocals was refreshing, and hypnotic.
Drake opening his song Unforgettable, from his 2010 album Thank Me Later, with Aaliyah’s You Are Love (At Your Best) was a sweet treat for listeners everywhere.
Normani- Wild Side
Normani’s 2021 hit song Wild Side ft. Cardi B made good use of Aaliyah’s song One In A Million, just like Tink did with Million back in 2015. Normani kept the entire beat intact while still adding her own flair.