I was 8 going on 9 when Aaliyah Dana Haughton was born January 16, 1979 in Brooklyn, New York. I had a chance to meet her in 1998 (I was 28 years old) at Sony Studios where me and a group I was producing, Oustiderz 4 Life, wanted her to participate in a song we had written about a girl playing two guys at the same time. The song was called, “Ain’t Never”. YouTube it.
When she agreed to be featured on the song, I purposely got rid of the previous lyrics we had at the ending of the part she was supposed to sing and tried to encourage her to come up with the closing lyrics of what a girl would say if she was caught in the situation. She told me that she didn’t write and really trusted the writers or producers of the songs she sings. As I’m trying to get her involved in the song, she looks at the lyrics on the paper and see’s her name. She then looks at me and says, “you know you spelled my name wrong, right?” She then laughs.
I was embarrassed. I thought I was safe with spelling her named based on the song “Back & Forth” produced by R. Kelly. “Who is the L-I-Y-A-H”. I spelled it as “L-Y-I-A-H”. Not only did I leave off the 2 A’s in the front, I managed to butcher the rest of her name. What’s even worse is that in the video for the song “Back & Forth”, she had a license plate around her neck that read, “LIYAH”. I apologized for it, but she was so humble that she didn’t even trip.
She finally came up with a line to finish out her part which was, “well I can’t lie, I guess it’s time that I, tell you both bye bye”. Insinuating that she was caught playing these two guys. YouTube “Ain’t Never” when you get a chance.
Then it came time to record her part. The studio was filled with people. Aaliyah only wanted to record with the producer (me) and the engineer with the lights off. I was shocked because I was new to the Blackground family which included Timbaland, Playa and Aaliyah. They had ties with Missy Elliott and Ginuwine. So I was shocked to see that she would worry about people watching her record. Now that I look back, it might’ve been because we were new to the camp. She’d already worked with Timbaland, Playa (Static, Black & Smoke E), Missy Elliott, Ginuwine and R. Kelly, so she obviously had a working relationship with them. However; it was a new experience for me.
Fast forward to the year 2000. I was in Los Angeles, California. I was at a photoshoot for the group I was producing, Outsiderz 4 Life. Music is playing in the background and then all of a sudden, a song we’ve never heard before called “Rock the Boat” blares through the speakers. I knew it was a hit when I first heard it. Everyone at the label wanted a copy to take home with the promise that they wouldn’t show anyone but the label wasn’t having it.
In 2001, Aaliyah already released an edgy Timbaland-produced 1st single, “We Need a Resolution”, written by Static-Major. Blackground Records wanted to find the next single. So the label did a vote. It was between “More Than a Woman” and “Rock the Boat”. I picked “Rock the Boat” produced by Eric Seats and Rapture and written by Static-Major who also wrote “More Than a Woman”. I don’t have the details on what the results were, but what I do know is that the label filmed a video for “More Than a Woman” in Los Angeles and decided to do a video for “Rock the Boat” as well.
Maybe the voting process was a tie between the 2 songs. I don’t know and I don’t want to speculate. All I know is that on January 16, 1979 a star was born and on August 25, 2001, a star was mourned. We really miss you Aaliyah. Happy Birthday!!!