One late Saturday afternoon, simply two weeks earlier than her dying, twenty-two-year-old Aaliyah walked from a black Mercedes-Benz to a small helicopter for a brief flight from New Jersey to East Hampton, New York. She was on her method to the summer time home that Jay-Z shared together with her boyfriend of a yr, Damon Sprint, Jay’s associate in Roc-a-Fella Data. She wore a dark-green hoodie and matching shorts so small they confirmed off most of her lengthy, curvy legs, all the way down to the little treble-clef tattoo on her proper ankle. She wore all-white Nike Air Drive Ones with white socks. Round her neck hung a small Roc-a-Fella pendant. In her left arm she clutched a big, fluffy pillow in a black pillowcase. She received on the helicopter, nuzzled into Sprint’s shoulder and went to sleep. I used to be there reporting a narrative on Jay-Z, and I used to be struck by Aaliyah’s presence, the way in which she was in particular person, as she was onstage – attractive with out shedding her girlish sweetness. All through the weekend, she was quiet however not fairly shy, fast to flash her huge, brilliant smile, fast to snigger at Sprint’s jokes and fast to bop with him in the course of the lounge when Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall got here on. On Sunday, she slept hours longer than everybody else, on a mattress strewn with rose petals. She and Sprint appeared very a lot in love.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born January 16th, 1979, in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Detroit together with her household at age 5. She grew up singing together with her mom, and at eleven opened for her aunt Gladys Knight in Las Vegas. She studied dance on the Detroit Excessive College for the Wonderful and Performing Arts and earned a 4.zero GPA. At fourteen, Aaliyah launched an album produced by Chicago R&B kingpin R. Kelly, known as Age Ain’t Nothing however a Quantity, which offered greater than 1 million copies. Experiences surfaced that she had married Kelly when she was solely fifteen and he was twenty-seven; Aaliyah denied it, though a wedding certificates was present in a Chicago county clerk’s workplace.
In 1996 got here her second album, One in a Million, which offered 2 million copies and launched its producer-songwriter staff, two largely unknown figures named Timbaland and Missy Elliott, to stardom. Aaliyah started modeling for Tommy Hilfiger and taking appearing classes, which led to a starring position in Romeo Should Die (2000) in addition to the position of Akasha in Queen of the Damned, slated for launch subsequent spring. She had additionally been solid in each of the upcoming sequels to The Matrix, which she had began capturing this summer time in L.A.
Her third file, Aaliyah, launched in July, was already gold when she flew to Abaco Island within the Bahamas to complete the video for the album’s third single, “Rock the Boat,” directed by Hype Williams. On Saturday, August 25th, she boarded a ten-seat twin-engine Cessna 402B certain for Opa-Locka, Florida, with the pilot, Luis Morales III, and 7 members of her crew: video-production director Douglas Kratz, 28; bodyguard Scott Gallin, 41; hairstylists Anthony Dodd, 34, and Eric Forman, 29; Blackground Data government Gina Smith, 30; make-up artist Christopher Maldonado, 32; and pal Keeth Wallace, 49. Lower than a minute after it took off, the aircraft crashed just some hundred ft from the runway. Aaliyah was amongst six passengers lifeless on the scene; three others handed away hours later.
Although Bahamian investigators haven’t formally decided what brought on the crash, police initially speculated that the aircraft foundered as a result of it had been overloaded with tools that introduced the entire weight to greater than 700 kilos over the plane’s specified 6,300-pound restrict.
Aaliyah was scheduled to depart the island the subsequent day, however when her half within the video was accomplished she determined to depart early. “Aaliyah left midproduction, so we had been nonetheless capturing when she left,” Williams says. He challenges the competition that the aircraft was overloaded. “These rumors about there being digital camera tools on the aircraft, they’re all false as a result of once they left, they left us in the course of the ocean nonetheless in manufacturing. Something that’s not the reality – it makes it more durable for individuals to know.”
Experiences have surfaced that the passengers argued with pilot Morales over whether or not the aircraft was overloaded, though it’s the pilot’s duty to make this willpower. Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and the president of Blackground Data, her label, is angered by studies that the passengers argued with Morales. “I don’t subscribe to the situation that the passengers of a aircraft dictate them to overload the aircraft,” he says. “That appears unfathomable. Within the airline enterprise, security has to all the time come first.”
Although the cargo’s weight was the preliminary focus of investigation, the times that adopted introduced troubling studies about thirty-year-old pilot Morales and the Fort Lauderdale firm that chartered the aircraft, Blackhawk Worldwide Airways. Up to now three years, Blackhawk has acquired a number of citations for security violations, together with a warning for not adequately testing staff for medicine. Morales’ file can be spotty: Lower than two weeks earlier than the crash, he pleaded no contest to costs of possession of crack cocaine and trying to promote stolen airplane components, and was placed on probation. He started working at Blackhawk two days earlier than the accident, and the corporate hadn’t licensed him to function the aircraft used for Aaliyah’s flight.
Pals recall Aaliyah as pushed, clever and clear on the reward of onerous work, in addition to an unusually candy and delicate spirit who all the time discovered time for play. She had a shyness that was lovely, they are saying, as a result of it sprang from humility. “She had an outdated soul,” says Hankerson. “She appeared like she was residing every thing in rewind, like she’d already carried out all of this. She had this character that was contagious. It was by no means only a job if you had been working together with her. You all the time had enjoyable. Good child enjoyable.”
She was exceptional for being attractive with out promoting herself, for locating the skinny line the place she might entice the boys with out embarrassing the mothers. “She’s the primary artist I labored with who wouldn’t compromise her values to be well-known,” says Parrish Johnson, an government vp at Blackground. “On this enterprise, church women turn into prostitutes as a result of they wish to be stars, however she would by no means let stardom intrude with who she was.”
She was nicknamed Li-Li and Child Woman. She beloved to sleep, to play phrase video games, to make prank telephone calls, to buy at Fred Segal in Los Angeles, to eat breakfast meals, even late within the afternoon. “She would simply do foolish stuff,” remembers Elliott. “One time, she put these huge pretend tooth in her mouth, the sort you get at a joke store, and she or he got here into my room and began doing the scenes from Romeo Should Die. Her character was very playful, however she was additionally equally caring and compassionate.”
She was a girly lady who all the time made positive her nails had been carried out, her fragrance was proper, and her bag had lotion and lip gloss. “She matured so much within the final yr,” says Kidada Jones, one in every of her finest mates. “She actually settled into her womanhood. Her mother and father gave her extra freedom, and she or he took extra management of her tasks. She fell in love with Damon and that was it. She wished to have a household, and we talked about how we couldn’t wait to chill with our infants.” She prayed earlier than each meal and earlier than she went to mattress. “God undoubtedly should’ve wanted an additional angel,” says Sean “Puffy” Combs. “An actual robust angel.”
Aaliyah had not but turn into a songwriter – Hankerson known as her an “interpreter” – however the songs she selected to grace together with her sultry, understatedly attractive vocals spoke volumes in regards to the picture she wished to painting. “Strive Once more,” from the Romeo Should Die soundtrack, is a playing-hard-to-get anthem, through which she’s telling her suitor she’s not going to be gained proper now however he shouldn’t stop attempting. She sings, “I’m into you, you’re into me/However I can’t let it go so simply.” She debases neither males nor ladies, remaining above the gender wars that pop songs about courting usually turn into. In “Are You That Any person?” from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack, she confesses her sexual need however calls for that her lover be discreet. “If I let this go, you possibly can’t inform no one,” she sings. “I’m talkin’ ’bout no one.” The place different pop songs deal with intercourse wantonly, she wonders aloud, “I hope you’re accountable… I’m trustin’ you with my coronary heart, my soul.”
However no alternative reveals extra about Aaliyah’s adventurousness, self-confidence and world-class ears than her opting to work with Timbaland and Elliott lengthy earlier than their quirky, futuristic, extremely textured, visible soul had turn into a dominant pop sound. “She was all the time attempting to be the primary to do one thing,” Hankerson says. “She by no means wished to repeat one thing that’s already been out.” “Tim and I had been new producers,” says Elliott. “From day one, she had that a lot religion in our music that she handled us like we already offered 2 million information, once we hadn’t offered something but. She actually helped make us what we’re right this moment.”
Her appearing profession started at nineteen with a name to Harold Guskin, who has coached Kevin Kline, Glenn Shut and Matt Dillon. For six months, Guskin and Aaliyah met a number of occasions every week to work by means of performs by Chekhov, Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams. “We labored very severely,” Guskin says. “She was an incredible pupil. Very good, extremely emotionally out there, and she or he had an exquisite creativeness.” When she was provided the position of the rebellious Trish O’Day in Romeo Should Die, Guskin labored together with her on the set. “We had this scene with Delroy Lindo [who played her father] the place she’s blaming him for the dying of her brother. Delroy’s magnificent and she or he beloved him, however within the scene she needed to go at him, and I mentioned, ‘You deal with him like a chunk of crap.’ Properly, she took off on that scene. She simply uncorked it. My college students, who’re main actors, couldn’t consider that she’d simply began in my front room.”
Her final day was marked by enjoyable and laughter, dancing and solar. “I really feel that it was an incredible day,” says Williams. “We had been on a ship in the course of the Caribbean. It was extraordinarily scorching, however everybody was in such good spirits. Up till the tragedy occurred everyone was actually feeling good. Everybody who left the island and received on that aircraft was in the very best of spirits.”
Most of these within the crash had been mates of Aaliyah’s; she tended to deal with the individuals who labored for her like household. The circle included hairstylists Anthony Dodd and Eric Forman. Williams says of Forman, “He was the primary one to maintain everybody’s spirit and morale up.” Christopher Maldonado was a make-up artist, among the best within the trade. Douglas Kratz, director of video manufacturing at Virgin Data, was unusually light for a file government. “He made positive Aaliyah was all the time snug and content material,” Williams says. “He wished to be extra of a pal and fewer of an impediment.” Scott Gallin was a bodyguard and actor who appeared within the movie Unhealthy Boys and on Miami Vice. Keeth Wallace was a detailed pal of the Haughton household who was nicknamed Pleasure. Gina Smith had been promoted to product supervisor at Blackground only a month earlier than.
Aaliyah’s August 31st funeral was closed to the general public, however tons of of her followers lined Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Higher East Facet because the singer’s casket was carried to St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church. Household and mates attended the service, together with Combs, Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Mike Tyson, Jay-Z, Ananda Lewis and Lil’ Kim. Later, a public memorial at Cipriani 42nd Avenue was crowded with greater than 3,000 mourners. In Los Angeles, a Sundown Boulevard billboard for Aaliyah’s album turned an advert hoc shrine.
Although some sources at Blackground say the “Rock the Boat” video shall be launched ultimately, and Williams says he want to see it on the air, Hankerson says he and his household haven’t but discovered tips on how to transfer ahead as an organization. For now, they’re struggling to cope with the lack of the lady whose title was an Arabic phrase which means “supreme.” “She was charmed from the womb,” Hankerson says. “It simply all the time labored out for her. This wasn’t alleged to occur. I by no means query God. It’s simply actually onerous to see the explanation for this one. They are saying he works in mysterious methods. This one’s extraordinarily mysterious to me.”