Battle Between Aaliyah’s Estate and Former Manager Breaks Into the Open

A protracted-running battle between the property of the late R&B singer Aaliyah and her uncle/ former supervisor and label chief Barry Hankerson broke into the open on Wednesday after teasers about forthcoming music had been posted on-line.

Aaliyah — a former R. Kelly protégé who was briefly married to him on the age of 15 in a shortly annulled ceremony — died in a 2001 airplane crash when she was simply 22. She is arguably the preferred and distinguished artist whose most-successful recordings are usually not out there on streaming providers, apparently attributable to a battle between Hankerson and the property that has gone on for the higher a part of 20 years.

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“For 20 years we have battled behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception,” the property’s assertion reads, “now, this unscrupulous endeavor to release Aaliyah’s music without transparency or full accounting to the estate compels our hearts to express a word – forgiveness,” however pledges to “continue to defend ourselves and her legacy lawfully.”

The assertion was a response to a social media submit from Blackground 2.0 Records — derived from the identify of Hankerson’s authentic label — promising “Aaliyah is coming.” (The social media accounts had been launched final month.) Hankerson has been trying to launch a 2012 album of uncommon Aaliyah materials — which was executive-produced by Drake — for a few years.

The property has been largely silent because the singer’s demise in 2001, and few particulars have emerged in regards to the actual nature of the factors of rivalry which have prevented her ultimate and most profitable albums from showing on streaming providers (learn extra about that right here). However, in latest months social media posts from each the property and Blackground 2.Zero have had an optimistic tone and mentioned they had been working to resolve the state of affairs.

Based on Wednesday’s posts, that now not appears to be the case. Reps for the property and Hankerson didn’t instantly reply to Variety‘s requests for further comment.

Most of Aaliyah’s official discography has by no means appeared legally on streaming providers — and stays arguably the preferred catalog not to take action, since all three of her albums have been licensed double platinum and would have racked up a lot larger numbers had two of them not been primarily unavailable because the introduction of streaming. Her modern, street-savvy picture and revolutionary, Timbaland and Missy Elliott-helmed hits helped pave the best way for numerous single-named R&B singers who adopted — not least Rihanna. Yet solely her R. Kelly-helmed 1994 debut, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” and a handful of singles are legally out there on streaming providers.

Initially an R. Kelly protégé — the 2 had been briefly married, allegedly by way of a pretend ID, when she was simply 15 — Detroit-born Aaliyah Haughton hit instantly with “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” But after her controversial (and unlawful) marriage to Kelly was annulled, she started working with the then-nascent workforce of Timbaland and Elliott on the 1996 “One in a Million” album, together with a number of singles and a self-titled assortment launched simply weeks earlier than Aaliyah’s demise. Perhaps most notable is the 1998 track “Are You That Somebody,” from the Eddie Murphy-starring “Dr. Doolittle” remake, which featured a memorable video and considered one of Timbaland’s most revolutionary productions, primarily based round a loop of a child cooing. (That track is the one one from Aaliyah’s later catalog out there on streaming providers.)

The disarray round Aaliyah’s enterprise affairs within the wake of her demise was difficult by the truth that all three of her albums had been on Blackground, the label based by Hankerson and his son Jomo. Barry additionally was Kelly’s supervisor for the primary 10 years of his profession and launched Aaliyah to the singer.

Always a mysterious determine, Hankerson was mentioned in a 2016 Complex article to be devastated first by his niece’s unlawful marriage to Kelly, with whom he lastly severed ties in 2000, after which by the following revelations of the extent of Kelly’s extensively reported sexual misconduct involving younger girls. However, he stored the label up and working for a decade following her demise.

Further complicating issues is the truth that every Aaliyah album was distributed by a unique label: “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number” is on Kelly’s former label Jive (which nonetheless holds the rights to that album, therefore its presence on streaming providers), whereas “One in a Million” was distributed by Atlantic; and the self-titled 2001 album by Virgin, which is now owned by Universal. (The latter two albums appeared on iTunes for a matter of hours just a few years in the past, however had been shortly eliminated.) Blackground, which at numerous instances additionally had Timbaland, Toni Braxton, JoJo and Tank on its roster, has not launched an album since 2013 and has been mired in lawsuits over the previous few years.

The posthumous Aaliyah album Hankerson has been trying to launch reportedly incorporates 16 unreleased songs, was govt produced by Drake and his longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shehib, and consists of posthumously recorded contributions from Timbaland, Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Drake. It was introduced by Hankerson in 2012 and a single, “Enough Said” (that includes Drake), was launched that 12 months, however Timbaland and Elliott and Aaliyah’s household distanced themselves from the mission.

However, an announcement from the property final 12 months prompt that Aaliyah’s official catalog will turn out to be out there. “To our loyal fans: We are excited to announce that communication has commenced between the estate and various record labels about the status of Aaliyah’s music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming platforms in the near future,” it reads. “Thank you for your continued love and support. More updates to come!” However, in a January 2021 submit it requested for persistence “until we can resolve all of the issues in freeing her music.”

The “communication has commenced” assertion doesn’t appear to reference the album Hankerson has been making an attempt to launch — however since he presumably controls the rights to the official catalog, it’s potential that he’s withholding these rights till the property agrees to launch his album.

In the meantime, most of Aaliyah’s deeply influential music catalog — which, between streaming and licensing offers alone, could possibly be raking in tens of millions of {dollars} in income yearly — continues to languish.

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