Aaliyah Dana Haughton (/ɑːˈliːə/; January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, actress and model. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Detroit, she first gained recognition at the age of 10, when she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight. At the age of 12, Aaliyah signed with Jive Records and her uncle Barry Hankerson‘s Blackground Records. Hankerson introduced her to R. Kelly, who became her mentor, as well as lead songwriter and producer of her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. The album sold three million copies in the United States and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). After facing allegations of an illegal marriage with Kelly, Aaliyah ended her contract with Jive and signed with Atlantic Records.
Aaliyah worked with record producers Timbaland and Missy Elliott for her second album, One in a Million, which sold three million copies in the United States and more than eight million copies worldwide. In 2000, Aaliyah appeared in her first film, Romeo Must Die. She contributed to the film’s soundtrack, which spawned the single “Try Again“. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, making Aaliyah the first artist in Billboard history to achieve this goal. After completing Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah filmed her role in Queen of the Damned, and released, in 2001, her self-titled third and final studio album, which topped the Billboard 200.
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas after filming the music video for the single “Rock the Boat“. The pilot, Luis Morales III, was unlicensed at the time of the accident and toxicology tests revealed that he had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Aaliyah’s family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Blackhawk International Airways, which was settled out of court. Aaliyah’s music has continued to achieve commercial success, aided by several posthumous releases, and has sold an estimated 24 to 32 million albums worldwide. Her accolades include three American Music Awards and two MTV VMAs, along with five Grammy Award nominations. She has been credited for helping to redefine contemporary R&B, pop and hip hop, earning her the nicknames the “Princess of R&B” and “Queen of Urban Pop”, and influencing numerous artists of different music genres. Billboard lists her as the tenth most successful female R&B artist of the past 25 years, and the 27th most successful in history.