Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, dancer, actress, and model. She was born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She studied dance at the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts and earned a 4.0 GPA.
At age 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and her uncle Barry Hankerson’s Blackground Records. Hankerson introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number“, at the tender age of 14. The album sold three (3) million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Reports surfaced that she had married Kelly when she was only fifteen (15) and he was twenty-seven (27); Aaliyah denied it, although a marriage certificate was found in a Chicago county clerk’s office. The allegations of an illegal marriage with R. Kelly ended her contract with Jive and she subsequently signed with Atlantic Records.
Aaliyah worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, “One in a Million”; which sold three (3) million copies in the United States and over eight (8) million copies worldwide. In 2000, Aaliyah appeared in her first film, Romeo Must Die. She contributed to the film’s soundtrack, which spawned the single “Try Again”. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on air play, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this goal. “Try Again” earned Aaliyah a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocalist. She released her third and final album, Aaliyah, in July 2001.
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas after filming the music video for the single “Rock the Boat”. The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Aaliyah’s music has continued to achieve commercial success with several posthumous releases. She has sold an estimated 24 to 32 million albums worldwide and has been credited for helping redefine contemporary R&B, pop and hip hop, which earned her the nicknames “Princess of R&B” and “Queen of Urban Pop”. She is listed by Billboard as the tenth (10th) most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years and 27th most successful R&B artist in history.