It’s a sad fact that death and hip-hop have been frequent companions: Tupac and Biggie gunned down, victims of well-publicized, or just well-manufactured, feuds. Freaky Tah of the Lost Boyz shot in the back of the head, the victim of an apparent beef. Big L taken out in a revenge killing. Fans grieve, but as they mourn, they speak of needless violence, of living by the sword and dying by it, too. In some circles, death is something to be expected, bragged about, never feared.
But on Monday, fans of R&B baby diva Aaliyah couldn’t make any sense of the sudden death of the singer they are now calling “hip-hop’s Princess Di,” a young woman known for keeping it clean, who described herself as being “street but sweet.” She didn’t traffic in Glocks, didn’t indulge in big pimpin’, didn’t court the bling-bling life.
“Why does it feel different this time around?” wondered one fan on the okayplayer.com Web site. “To me, this is so much worse [than Tupac and Biggie]. ... This is just hurting me so much more. Is it because she is just such a beautiful talented woman? Is it cause her message was so positive?”
Two days after multi-platinum-selling singer Aaliyah Haughton, 22, was killed along with eight others in the crash of a twin-engine plane in the Bahamas, distraught fans crashed the servers on Aaliyah Web sites and flooded radio stations with remembrances.
Aaliyah was on her way back to the United States after shooting a music video on the island of Abaco. Bahamian police said the crash was under investigation.
One Web site, Aaliyah Plays It Cool, recorded over 92,000 hits since Saturday. BET was scheduled to air a tribute last night; MTV’s is slated for today at 5 p.m.
Yesterday, WKYS-FM’s Russ Parr and Olivia Fox devoted their entire morning show to the late singer.
“The phone lines went absolutely nuts,” Parr said. “Everyone could see that she was getting ready to be a major star.”
Indeed, Aaliyah’s career seemed to be taking off in new directions. Her self-titled new album, released late last month, was already certified gold, with nearly 450,000 copies sold.
Last year she earned praise for her film debut in “Romeo Must Die,” in which she starred with Jet Li. She had also starred in the yet-to-be released adaptation of Anne Rice's “Queen of the Damned,” and was scheduled to appear in two sequels to “The Matrix.”
Aaliyah first came to attention in 1994, when she was just 15, with her CD “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” which went platinum, selling more than a million copies. The title later raised eyebrows when documents indicated that the teenager, in her one publicized act of rebellion, had married her mentor, singer-producer R. Kelly. (The marriage was apparently annulled, and neither Aaliyah nor Kelly ever publicly spoke of it.)
Her second CD, on which she joined up with hip-hop producers Missy Elliott and Timbaland, “One in a Million,” went multi-platinum.
“She represents the first class of R&B artists that are making the transition into film and other forms of entertainment,” said Vibe Executive Editor OJ Lima. “A lot of people thought that Aaliyah had the most promise.”
The death of such promise, coupled with the singer’s sweetness, left family, friends and fans shaken.
“Even the toughest and most fierce among us have been silenced by this,” said WPGC disc jockey Michel Wright. “It seemed so unfair. Aaliyah wasn’t embroiled in any negativity, the beefs you hear about in the hip-hop community.”
“She was like a hip-hop Princess Di,” says Jamie Foster Brown, editor and publisher of Sister 2 Sister magazine. “She always carried herself like royalty, she didn’t hang out and drink, or go wild. She never had a diva attitude.”
Aaliyah’s label, Blackground Records (founded by her uncle Barry Hankerson), said there were no immediate plans for a memorial service.
“If there is a god somewhere he loves her,” one fan wrote in message posted on the Internet. “She died to early. she was beautiful like Marilyn and young like James Dean I’m really sad.”