I often think about where triple threat singer, dancer, and actress, Aaliyah would be in 2023 if she were still alive. Even though it’s been twenty one years since her death and final album she is still so relevant. There’s no doubt about it that Aaliyah had a major impact on millennials and her legacy for us ’80’s and ’90’s babies is unforgettable. From her signature sleek and straight hair and swoop, shades, leather outfits, ombre hair, makeup, music videos and Tommy Hilfiger outfits, to her dancing and acting she was a standout and admired star whose influence can even be seen in various Pop and R&B artists today. Everyone from Normani, Tink, Drake, Jeezy, and Chris Brown have sampled her.
Back on July 7, 2001, I was just 10-years-old and excited about Aaliyah’s self-titled third album dropping. I use to watch 106 & Park with hosts Free and AJ on BET faithfully as a young tween and Aaliyah was on the show promoting her album. I also remember MTV had a show called “Diary” where they would go behind-the-scenes with certain artists and I couldn’t wait for Aaliyah’s episode to air.
- The 106 & Park Aaliyah Interview is available to watch here)
- The MTV Diary episode is currently available to watch here)
Anyway, I really wanted Aaliyah’s CD, but I remember my mom said that it was “too grown” for me to get. Little did we know it would be her final album and she would pass weeks later in a tragic plane crash in the Bahamas after filming the music video for the sensual single “Rock the Boat.”
I remember MTV News and the radio announced that the singer passed and I just couldn’t believe it. I was so hurt about the death of someone I had never even met. My Dad eventually purchased the CD for me and said it was a classic and would be a collectible and he was right. It took years, but Aaliyah’s musical catalog is now available on streaming sites. I’m not sure of the all the legalities or exact reasons why Blackground Records and Aaliyah’s Estate have issues when it comes to royalties etc., but at least younger and older generations can now listen and have access to her music.
I was re-listening to Aaliyah’s self-titled album through my 2023 adult ears and it just resonated and hit different! There are so many tracks in her musical catalog that could’ve been singles and sound like they came out recently instead of years ago. The self-titled genre bending album combined, Rock on tracks like “I Can Be” and “What If”, Flamenco on songs like “Read Between The Lines”, Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop, with lead singles “We Need a Resolution” and “More Than A Woman”, and spoke of a young woman in her early 20’s singing about pleasure “Rock The Boat”, pain and abuse “Never No More” and “I Refuse”, relationships and life lessons and love on “Those Were The Days”, “Extra Smooth”, “U Got Nerve”, “I Care 4 U”and “Try Again”. That album template is now the norm, but was ground-breaking for a 20-something young woman in 2001 to combine different moods and genres. One line that always stuck out to me was the lyric “Speak your heart don’t bite your tongue. Don’t get it twisted. Don’t misuse it.”- Aaliyah “We Need a Resolution” feat. Timbaland. I feel like every track and lyric had a purpose or mood that was fitting.
One underrated track in my opinion was the electronic and futuristic sounding “LOOSE RAP”, which is the second track on Aaliyah’s self-titled album. Produced by Key Beats and written by the late Stephen “Static Major” Garrett, who also penned other songs in Aaliyah’s musical catalog, is a fusion of experimental synthesized beats, ad-libs, and echoes. “We got something for all the fools it ain’t just rhythm and blues.” Aaliyah declared that her musical sound and image were not just limited to an R&B music box that speaks of her unique sound, image, and artistry.
Back in 2001, Aaliyah was not only singing and dancing, but she started to branch out into different musical genres on her third album and acted in films such as “Queen of the Damned” and “Romeo Must Die.” Aaliyah and Static Major may have passed on, but their presence left a mark and the duo sure didn’t lose our attention in loose rap. Throughout the song Static Major and Aaliyah declare their annoyance, confidence, and competitive nature in various aspects of life, love, and the music and entertainment industry.
In the introduction, Aaliyah’s voice echoes “I’m sick and tired of the loose rap” while Static Major states, ”For the ’01 I know you can come better come better than that so you can kill all your loose rap.” On the Aaliyah: Behind the Scenes segment on the posthumous album and DVD “I Care 4 U” Aaliyah said that her name is Arabic “meaning the highest most exalted one.. the best and I really wanted that name to carry the project.” From the origins of her name to the album’s title, and the third verse on “loose rap”: ”If you just quit trying to compete, yeah, No telling what you could be, might even be doper than me…I doubt it.” Aaliyah addresses her adversaries and exudes a confidence and self-assuredness, talent, and an incomparable uniqueness to the point where her influence and impact are still present in music and fashion decades later.
Additionally, on the posthumous album and DVD “I Care 4 U” there is an “Aaliyah: Behind the Scenes” segment where Aaliyah gives her opinion on certain tracks off her third album. In regards to this particular song she stated, “I love it so much because if you listen to it this is how I listen to it how I take this song it tells three different stories and it’s just really about people come up to you with a whole lotta smack and weak rap and it’s like I don’t wanna hear any of your loose rap.” The first verse whether it be a guy or girl being a little bit jealous of you and you saying I know what you talk smack behind my back but I don’t care because I know you’re just speaking “loose rap.” The second verse is about a guy coming to me kickin’ game tryna be my guy and I’m like your game is a lil’ weak, but I might give you a chance even though you’re kicking loose rap, and the third verse speaks about my crew, Tim and everybody all of us and the music we make our creativity and people being a little bit jealous of that and really trying not to feel it but it’s okay because everything you say is just loose rap so it tells 3 different stories and I think it’s really just hot.” The song is one of those tracks that isn’t wrapped up in yesteryear. Twenty-one years later this song and the rest of the album still sounds current and wrapped and layered with synths that can ride the waves of time.