“Alexa, play ‘Miss You,’ by Aaliyah.” That’s a sentence you may be able to say in the near future, with the estate of the late R&B star entering talks with labels. “To our loyal fans: We are excited to announce that communication has commenced between the estate and various record labels about the status of Aaliyah’s music catalogue, as well as its availability on streaming platforms in the near future,” Aaliyah’s estate wrote in a Twitter statement. Aaliyah’s music has been largely absent from streaming due to actions by her uncle and former manager Barry Hankerson, who owns her masters and licensing rights. Hankerson also worked with noted sexual predator R. Kelly, whom he introduced to Aaliyah to help on her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, released when she was just 15. Aaliyah was married to Kelly for a short time afterward, claiming on a marriage license that she was 18. Her marriage to Kelly was annulled in February 1995, and most Aaliyah fans neglect her first album given Kelly’s predatory behavior.
Hankerson and his label Blackground records have faced lawsuits from Timbaland, Toni Braxton, and JoJo, related to claims of mismanagement (all were settled outside of court). Aaliyah’s catalog, meanwhile, has popped up online sporadically since her 2001 death — her second and third albums, One in a Million and Aaliyah, appeared on streaming briefly in 2013, while her greatest hits album, Ultimate Aaliyah, appeared and disappeared in 2017. A posthumous Aaliyah album has been in talks since 2012, but has yet to be released. So let’s take this one step at a time.