It's 2017. Everyone's into being "conscious", "socially aware", and empowering people of color.
The sad is...most of you actually don't. Most of you especially don't empower people of color. I've noticed, most people talk a good game, but can't even uphold themselves to their own standards. How can we talk about preserving our history and our music if we discredit those who've made an impact that still shows to this day?
I'm saying all of this to say, it's time that we stopped disrespecting Aaliyah.
It's time that we stopped making the most derogatory, insensitive, and degrading comments and jokes about Aaliyah.
Aaliyah was one of the most influential artists in the 90s and the early 2000s. Since her debut in 1994, fans, critics, and artists throughout the years have praised the singer for her musical styling which helped change the direction of R&B, acknowledged her impact in music, and inspiring a new generation of artists coming out. Aaliyah is also considered a fashion icon; her simple yet mysterious sex appeal and trademark hair over one eye have been recreated and imitated by many singers and model even today. 16 years since her tragic death, Aaliyah is still beloved and remembered by many around the world. Unfortunately, there are still people who discredit the late singer and make disrespectful comments and jokes.
As the internet and social media grew increasingly popular, so has the way others can disrespect each other. People have created hate pages dedicated to disrespecting Aaliyah. Others have tried to belittle her career as if her impact and legacy isn't evident. Unfortunately, there have been numerous fan bases that have used her death as the pun of their jokes and memes.
I know in this day in age, it's hard to acknowledge the success of another black woman, but it's time to change that narrative. Here's how:
Let's start with music alone.
Aaliyah wasn't just some pretty girl with decent vocals and two hits. Over the course of her career, the Grammy and Academy Award nominated singer has three platinum albums with ten top 10 singles on the charts. Songs like "Back and Forth", "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number", "Are You That Somebody?", and "Rock The Boat" are still in rotation for many radio stations and music streaming services, while her signature hit "One In A Million" and songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "At Your Best" are still sampled by artists such as Tink and Tory Lanez. Sonically, Aaliyah helped redefine R&B; with her first album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, being a fusion of hip-hop, new jack swing, and jazz, and her second album, One In A Million, still carrying the jazz vibe with rhythmic beats produced by Timbaland, Aaliyah has been dubbed the "Queen of Urban Pop" and delivered a sound that has been studied and influenced the sounds of even today, seen in Ciara, Tinashe, Keke Palmer, and Bryson Tiller.
Her persona and influence....
Music wasn't the only way Aaliyah left an impact. As Brandy mentioned in an interview, Aaliyah ushered in a new crop of artist, at a time when record labels didn't take teen acts in a serious manner; opening the doors for Brandy, Monica, Usher, Mya, Destiny's Child, and many others in the 2000s, as well as opening the doors for herself (in 1998, she became the youngest artist to ever perform at the Academy Awards). Aaliyah's fashion style was synonymous and just as influential as her music; Aaliyah was known for her dark, baggy clothes, dark sunglasses, and wearing her hair over one eye, which many in the US and overseas try to emulate (even being credited as the influence of "ghetto goth"). Her looks from her music videos have been recreated for photo shoots, Halloween costumes, and everyday fashion looks. Aaliyah was sought after by brands such as Roc-A-Wear and Tommy Hilfiger, in which she modeled for in their campaigns. Aaliyah is also credited with helping popularize Tommy Hilfiger and making it a 90s staple.
Aaliyah was also a budding actress. Starring in early 2000's hits Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned, and was set to star in Honey, the remake of Sparkle (later starred Jordan Sparks), the Matrix Reloaded and the Matrix Revolution (later replaced by Nona Gaye).
With all the success she's had, there is no reason to disrespect Aaliyah or her career. To see people preach about black unity and put the hashtag "Black Girl Magic" or "Black Lives Matter" in their bios, yet post memes mocking Aaliyah's death or describing her talent as less than what it is, shows their hypocrisy and ignorance. I'm pretty sure when someone says something disrespectful about your favorite artist, you would get offended right? So why say something offensive about someone's who no longer with us? Can you imagine how it must feel for Aaliyah's relatives and friends so see those hurtful comments and pictures on their timeline?
Well, I'm not sure how these music listeners and "activist" do it these days.
Moving forward into the new year, if we are serious about preserving music and the history of our people, we must start acknowledging those who inspired the musical artist that are out today. With that being said, stop disrespecting Aaliyah with cheap jokes only to get likes and attention on social media. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, Aaliyah influence and impact is very prevalent...even with most of your favorite artist.