Digital voids like these can result from legal battles over uncleared samples (as with De La Soul), or from musicians holding out for better royalty terms (the Beatles, until recently). Other times they’re the result of ideological stands against the devaluation of artistic output (Joanna Newsom), or cranky nitpicking about audio quality (Neil Young). But Aaliyah’s internet absence is different—there’s no logic to it. It’s not an artistic statement or a play for more money, and there’s no dedicated Aaliyah-only streaming service in the works.What follows is an impressive backstory encompassing Hankerson's beginnings as an organizer for Coleman Young, his marriage to Gladys Knight, and introducing his niece to R. Kelly — which resulted in a successful artistic relationship, but also, infamously, in an illegal underage one that would cause a bitter rift between the family and Kelly. And then there was Aaliyah's tragic death in a plane crash in 2001.
Instead, there’s a single, stubborn man, sitting on a catalog that includes almost all of her most famous work, as well as albums from Timbaland and Toni Braxton, and a trove of unreleased original material that’s never before been heard. The situation puts her entire musical legacy at risk of fading from memory. Year by year, streaming accounts for a greater portion of an artist’s visibility and reverence among the next generation of listeners. And he refuses to budge.
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