Aaliyah’s Discography to Be Released on Streaming, Late Artist’s Estate Criticizes Move

Cordilia Muzik

Thursday, Blackground Records co-founder Barry Hankerson—uncle of the late Aaliyah—confirmed a deal that will bring her discography to streaming services.

The announcement, which was preceded by a wave of social media promo earlier this week, serves as the basis for a new Billboard piece in which a rollout for multiple Aaliyah albums is confirmed. First up is One in a Million, out later this month.

The soundtrack for Romeo Must Die is up next in September, followed that same month by the 2001 self-titled album. In October, the compilation albums I Care 4 U and Ultimate Aaliyah will be released on Spotify and elsewhere.

The deal in question sees Hankerson’s Blackground Records—which owns the bulk of Aaliyah’s masters—partnering with Empire to release the label’s full catalog. Also included in the new-to-streaming catalog are releases from Timbaland and Magoo, Tank, Toni Braxton, JoJo, and former O-Town member Ashley Parker Angel. 

As detailed in the Billboard piece, the path these albums took to arriving on streaming services has been a long one for all involved, including fans who have often been disappointed after getting their hopes up about the future of the late singer’s catalog.

A posthumous album from Aaliyah is also in the works. Though a release date is not set yet, Hankerson says he’s sitting on new music that includes features from Drake, Future, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, and Ne-Yo.

A press release, which arrived shortly after the publication of the Billboard piece, noted that Background Records will now be known as Blackground Records 2.0. The company is also launching a new “entertainment app” called Music360. 

Running Aaliyah’s estate are the singer’s mother, as well as brother Rashad. In January, the estate marked what would have been Aaliyah’s 42nd birthday by sharing a statement addressing the confusion surrounding the catalog.https://24444f3ea4036bb4b19e9e557be26ba0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

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“While we share your sentiments and desire to have Aaliyah’s music released, we must acknowledge that these matters are not within our control and, unfortunately, take time,” the estate said at the time. “Our inability to share Aaliyah’s music and artistry with the world has been as difficult for us as it has been for all of you.”

And earlier this week, the estate shared a statement questioning why there is “such a tenacity in causing more pain,” notably criticizing “individuals who have emerged from the shadows to leech off of Aaliyah’s life’s work.”

As of Thursday, the tension between Hankerson and her estate appeared to remain. Paul LiCalsi, attorney at law for Aaliyah LLC, shared the following statement with Complex on Thursday:

“Since the early 2000’s, only Aaliyah’s first album Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number has been available on streaming platforms because the right to distribute that record has been held by major record companies under contract with Aaliyah’s record label, Blackground Records. Other than that first album, virtually the entire remainder of her catalog, including many  never released tracks, has been inexplicably withheld from the public by Blackground Records. Aaliyah’s Estate has always been ready to share Aaliyah’s musical legacy but has been met with contention and a gross lack of transparency. For almost 20 years, Blackground has failed to account to the Estate with any regularity in accordance with her recording contracts. In addition, the Estate was not made aware of the impending release of the catalog until after the deal was complete and plans were in place. The Estate has demanded that Blackground provide a full account of its past earnings, and full disclosure of the terms of its new deal to distribute Aaliyah’s long embargoed music.”

August marks 20 years since Aaliyah, 22, was killed in a plane crash. This month also marks the 25th anniversary of One in a Million, the singer’s double-platinum sophomore album. 

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