When Normani released her first single in nearly two years on July 16, “Wild Side” featuring rapper Cardi B., she instantly made waves with her new sultrier sound and very risqué video. Among those raving about the 90’s-reminiscent sound of the sexy single is Barry Hankerson, the uncle of late R&B sensation Aaliyah.
“Wild Side,” which has already reached #13 on Apple Music’s US Top 100, draws heavy inspiration from the bassline of Aaliyah’s 1996 R&B classic “One in a Million.” Hankerson, who is also the founder of Blackground Records, owns all of the late singer’s master recordings and manages her full musical catalog (which he has notoriously never released to streaming platforms). He believes that if the singer had lived to see the ways in which she has inspired a new generation of songstresses like Normani, she’d be incredibly pleased.
“I believe that Aaliyah would be very supportive of a young Black woman that chose to emulate her music and style,” Hankerson told TMZ during a recent interview, adding that Aaliyah “always encouraged young women pursuing their musical and entertainment careers to achieve their dreams.”
Though Hankerson ultimately gives Normani’s new track his blessing, he says it would have been “more honorable” if the singer or her producers had reached out directly to first get permission before drawing such heavy inspiration from Aaliyah’s timeless hit. Background Records confirmed to TMZ that no sample of “One in a Million” was ever cleared for use on this recording.
Normani’s team tells TMZ that no direct sample of the song was actually used. However, the similarities are so undeniable that the original song’s own producer Timbaland was compelled to react to Normani’s version on social media.
“Normani, I fool with this one. Thank you,” he said via IG stories before ad-libbing his signature beatbox that accompanied the original “One in a Million” over the track, further highlighting the stark similarities between the two.
Regardless of hiccups regarding sampling and usage, Hankerson indicates that he has no plans of pushing the issue further, as it ultimately honors Aaliyah’s lasting legacy.
“I will not stand in the way of something that brings to light the incredible staying power of Aaliyah. So in that light, wishing Normani well with the song and overall career. God bless. I think Aaliyah would be pleased.”