Exactly nine years ago, I was in Sunday School and my friend Reagan walked in and said, “The singer Aaliyah just died.” “Excuse me?” Much of the room quickly looked my way, knowing I was a fan. I asked if he was serious. I mean, there are celebrity death hoaxes all of the time, and I had just read that she had signed on to star in The Matrix sequels. Reagan said he heard it on the radio. She, along with several others in her entourage, died in a plane crash on the way home from a video shoot for “Rock The Boat”.
I remember this day distinctly because I always thought Aaliyah was such an underrated artist. She whispered and cooed when most other R&B starlets were trying (and failing) to wail or riff. Her voice was not necessarily weak. It was just softer than Beyonce’s and Monica’s. She knew exactly how to use it though and could have taught a lot of today’s R&B “singers” a lesson in knowing your gifts and using them to their fullest extents. She was fashion-forward, musically gifted, and seemed to be a genuinely sweet spirit.
I miss Aaliyah. No, I didn’t know her personally. I never met her…never got to even see her in concert. But she made music that affected me in some way. And for that, I am grateful. She is also a reminder to me to not take for granted the underrated artists that are grinding today. Brandy, Solange, Jazmine Sullivan, Sons of Sylvia, and countless others, I am looking at you all. Let’s enjoy the music while we still have it.