Though taken too soon at the age of 22, Aaliyah got her start in showbiz early at the tender age of 10 years old after being discovered on the TV series Star Search. By 12, she landed a major record deal, gained the mentorship of R. Kelly, and started working on her first album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number which she later released at the age of 15–before most even learn to drive.
There’s no telling what Aaliyah would have accomplished had her plane not crashed that fateful day in 2001, but her legacy in the pop and R&B world is remembered by many who continue to sample and remix her work today. As we near the 14th anniversary of her passing, we thought we thought we’d pay tribute and highlight a few of our favorite uses of Aaliyah’s songs that have been created in the last five years.
1. Aaliyah – One In A Million
One of her biggest hits, One In A Million topped the Billboard 100 R&B chart for six weeks. It was co-written by Missy Elliott (check out her Bootie Samples here) and Timbaland and has since become a remix and sampling favorite, with even Iggy Izalea’s Backseat Trill $hit borrowing Aaliyah’s vocals at its intro.
2015 | Hip-Hop / Trap | Tink – Million (Original Mix) [Epic]
20-year-old Tink adds her own raps on top of Aaliyah’s lyrics, while the production style dips into the trap realm with the addition of half-time hi-hats and a sparse, broken beat rhythm. Aaliyah’s vocals ebb in an out of focus, most notably in the repeat phrase “goes on and on” while Tink continues to croon the original’s title “one in a million.” Purchase Million here.
2. Aaliyah – Rock The Boat
Tragically, Aaliyah’s last music video was for Rock The Boat where her plane crashed shortly after departing the Bahamas where filming took place. It has become one of her most recognizable songs and remains in heavy rotation on multiple R&B radio stations today.
2012 | Experimental house | Arca – Deop (Original Mix)
Repeat Bjork collaborator Arca is an unlikely fan of Aaliyah, and yet he has a few Aaliyah productions floating around the web, including this sampling of Rock The Boat called Deop. The mysterious producer has opted to use only a few phrases from Aaliyah’s original, but they have been warped so heavily that it’s near impossible to discern her lyrics unless listening extremely carefully. You can hear more from Arca here.
2015 | Tropical house | DWYR – Make Me Float (Original Mix)
As premiered on LessThan3’s Disco Diaries, DWYR’s version opts for a lighter approach to Aaliyah’s lyrics, keeping them as a central focus while adding in lilting chord progressions and lower pitched vocal phrases for a stylistic departure from the original R&B rhythm. Already brimming with tropical-leaning drum lines, DWYR heightens that shoreline vibe with his own interpretation. Grab your free download here.
2014 | House | Ferdinand Weber & Fabich – Aaliyah (Original Mix)
Ferdinand Weber and Fabich craft an entirely new synth-laden melody to create the foundation for Aaliyah’s vocals, only the two producers don’t even use a full lyrical phrase from the track. Instead of inserting her lyrics into their production, the pair chop up her vocals to use only a few ornamental riffs, using phrases like another instrument entirely. To hear more from these producers, head to Ferdinand Weber’s SoundCloud here.
3. Aaliyah – Are You That Somebody
Ironically, Aaliyah’s Are You That Somebody relies on a couple samples itself taken from Perrey and Kingsley’s “Countdown at 6″ and D. Train’s 1982 hit “You’re the One for Me”.
2013 | Indie/Beats | Mr. Carmack – Say Yes Or Say No (Aaliyah Flip)
Mr. Carmack’s strange interpretation utilizes a few high-pitched vocal phrases, most identifiable is the repeated “say yes or say no” phrase in which the title takes it name. The vocals are used in tandem with a cluster of shimmering effects, and staccato piano chords that enter the production toward the end. Check out more Mr. Carmack tunes here.
2011 | Hip-hop / Bass | Aaliyah – Are You That Somebody (Hudson Mohawke Remix)
Hudson Mohawke largely keeps Aaliyah’s entire phrasing intact but strips the R&B rhythm away to add his own glitchy, broken beat flare. A deep bassline hums in the background to carry both the lyrics and Mohawke’s angular synth work. Hear more from Hudson Mohawke here.
2010 | Electronica | James Blake – CMYK (Original Mix)
James Blake distorts Aaliyah past recognition by slowing her vocals down to an extremely low register and setting them against a few dissonant droning notes. Aaliyah’s lyrics are nestled in among multiple other samples, which has become a favored technique in multiple Blake productions. Claim your copy of CMYK here.