On Sunday, rapper Drake and producer Noah “40” Shebib dropped “Enough Said,” a posthumous single by the late singer Aaliyah, at the OVO Festival in Toronto. The song is reportedly a prelude to an upcoming Aaliyah album that Drake is said to be executive producing. The single is decent enough, but the controversy around it is what really has everyone talking.
Most people agree that Drake’s intentions are in the right place. He’s an ardent fan who credits Aaliyah as one of his biggest musical influences, and he has two tattoos — an image of Aaliyah’s face on his back, and new ink on his chest that reads as both “416” (Toronto’s area code) and “116” (for January 16, Aaliyah’s birthday) — to prove the point. But Drake is simply a fan of Aaliyah’s, just like the rest of us, and he didn’t know her when she was alive. There’s no personal or professional connection — like, say, when Natalie Cole did a posthumous collaboration with her late father Nat “King” Cole, or when Puffy released unheard Biggie tracks after his death. So it just seems odd Drake would be at the helm of this project, instead of Aaliyah’s longtime friends and collaborators Missy Elliott or Timbaland (who, after initially questioning Drake’s endeavor, are now rumored to be producing two tracks for the album). Admittedly, Timbaland’s reported input makes me a little warmer to the idea, but I can’t jump on board.
Confession: It took me a while to get on board with Aaliyah’s music. When her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, debuted in 1994, I was indifferent, too caught up in Monica’s “Don’t Take it Personal” and “Before You Walk Out My Life” to take much notice. But in 1996, a friend popped One in a Million into the CD changer. It was love at first listen. The title track, along with “Four Page Letter” and “The One I Gave My Heart To,” became my anthems, the ones that helped ease my early growing pains with love and relationships.
I wasn’t the type of fan that plastered Aaliyah posters on my wall or stood in line to spend the last of work-study money for concert tickets like one of my best friends from college, but I bought the albums, sung along to the radio, copied the complicated dance routines from her videos the best I could and showed up to see Aaliyah (and DMX) in the movie Romeo Must Die on opening weekend.
I was walking to a club in New York on August 25, 2001, when that college bestie called to wail, “Ohmigod! Aaliyah’s dead!” I stood on the corner of West 4th Street stuck on stupid and trying to comfort her. Later that night, I cried along with seemingly the rest of the party when the DJ played an Aaliyah set.
I skipped her funeral, in which a horse-drawn carriage carried her body through the streets of New York City, and the mass memorial for fans at Cipriani’s. Her death at 22, in a plane crash, was too dang sad.
By virtue of the spelling of Aaliyah’s name, she’s the first track on my overloaded iPod. Whenever I put it on and just let it play, inevitably I’m treated to a lengthy set of her music, which stands the test of time. I don’t need any additions to her discography from Drake or, for that matter, anyone else. What she created in her too-short lifetime is more than good enough.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk