Aaliyah was born January 16th in Brooklyn, New York. At a young age, Aaliyah was enrolled in voice lessons by her mother performing at weddings, participating in church choir and charity events. Aaliyah’s father who was a warehouse worker in Detroit gained the attention of his brother-in-law Barry Hankerson, an entertainment lawyer who was famously married to Gladys Knight. Alliyah would then go on to travel with Gladys Knight and worked with her agent on entertainment placements including Family Matters and even appearing on Star Search.

The Success

In 1991, Aaliyah signed a distribution deal with Jive Records at the age of 12. It was also around the same time Hankers introduced her to R. Kelly. Aaliyah’s debut album, Age Aint Nothing but a Number debuted number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 74,000 copies in its first week. It ultimately peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 and sold over three million copies in the United States, where it was certified two times Platinum by the RIAA.

Aaliyah left Jive Records for Atlantic where she worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott to produce One in a Million. One in a Million peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200, selling 3 million copies in the U.S. and over eight million copies worldwide. On June 16th 1997, The album was certified double platinum by the RIAA with her two million copies shipped. Are You That Somebody? was featured in the blockbuster hit movie Dr. Dolittle and on the soundtrack album. Aaliyah earned her first Grammy Award nomination.

In 2001, After acquiring her first movie role in Romeo Must Die. Aaliyah executively produced the film’s soundtrack, where she contributed four songs. Try Again was released as a single and topped the Billboard Hot 100 making Aaliyah the first artist to top the chart based solely on airplay. She later won Best Female Video and Best Video from a Film award at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. The soundtrack sold over 1.5 million copies in the U.S.

The Final Years

Shortly after completing Romeo Must Die, In 2001, Aaliyah released her self-titled album, Aaliyah in July of that year. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 187,000 copies in it’s first week. On August 25th, 2001, at 6:50 p.m., Aaliyah and various members of her record label traveled from Marsh Harbour Airport in The Bahamas after completing the filming of Rock The Boat. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, about 200 feet from the runway and exploded. Aaliyah’s funeral was held in Manhattan on August 31st, 2001. Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Gladys Knight, Lil’ Kim, and Sean Combs were all in attendance.

Remembering Baby Girl

This week, Vibe is publishing anniversary tributes to Aaliyah — sparking fans of her music to do the same.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Cooper

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