It’s been over 20 years since Aaliyah’s tragic passing in 2001, but her impact on culture is still as strong as ever. At long last, her music and official music videos were made available in digital formats in 2021, and they were just a reminder of how many artists she inspired.

Aaliyah released her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, in 1994 when she was just 14 years old. She earned her first Billboard chart placement with her debut single “Back And Forth,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs where it stayed for three weeks.

She released her sophomore album One in a Million two years later. Missy Elliott and Timbaland served as producers on the project. “Try Again” earned the singer her first and only top-charter on the Billboard 100. It was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 43rd Annual GRAMMY Awards.

The Detroit native released her eponymous third album and last album in 2001–one month before her tragic death in an airplane crash. The LP topped the Billboard 200 and spawned hits such as “Rock The Boat, and “More Than A Woman.” She earned three GRAMMY nominations for the album. It was nominated for Best R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Rock The Boat” (44th Annual GRAMMY Awards), and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “More Than A Woman” (45th Annual GRAMMY Awards). In Aaliyah’s lifetime, the singer received five Grammy Award nominations.

Aaliyah: Beyond The Music

While having a successful music career, she also branched into Hollywood as an actress. She starred in Romeo Must Die in 2000 alongside the late DMX and Jet Li. In 2001, she also starred in Queen of the Damned, which was released posthumously.

Her recorded legacy stands as one of the best from her era, despite the fact that she only recorded three albums in her lifetime.

Take a look at the artists that have been influenced by Aaliyah’s career:

  • 1. Drake

    Drake has been very open about his obsession with the late R&B singer; he even has a tattoo of her on his back. He also was able to create with Aaliyah posthumously in the song “Enough Said.” The Toronto rapper has said that “Aaliyah had the biggest influence on my music,” in a 2012 interview.

  • 2. Ciara

    Ciara and Aaliyah have been compared to one another for quite some time and Ciara made it known that a lot of her influence comes from the late singer. She spoke about Aaliyah’s authenticity in an interview with The Grape Juice blog back in 2011:

    “It never felt like she was trying to reach across or do anything more than just keep that cool, soulful, heavy urban core about it. It wasn’t like she was trying to be anything more than who she was. I really respect that and I appreciate that.”

    You can hear Aaliyah’s influence in Ciara’s 2013 hit “Body Party.”

  • 3. Alicia Keys

    Alicia Keys credits Aaliyah for her 2003 hit “If I Ain’t Got You.”

    “I was on a plane and I think being on the plane and knowing she passed away after a plane crash, there was just this sentiment of being present in the moment and really like nothing else mattering but those that you love,” she recalled from her 2017 The Voice interview. “I think that that feeling was really present in my life at that time and really right in my face.”

  • 4. J. Cole

    Before J. Cole was known for “going platinum with no features” he recalls the teenage crush he had on the late superstar. “It was like a little boy crush but it was a true crush,” Cole said in an interview back in 2011.  In her honor, the then-teenage Cole produced a beat named after her. “I remember slightly what the beat sounded like,” he says, “but that was my way to pay respect in my own little world, in my own room…”

    In his 2014 song, “No Role Modelz” he shouts out his crush for the late superstar, “My only regret, could never take Aaliyah home…,” he raps.

  • 5. Sevyn Streeter

    Sevyn Streeter credits the R&B icon for her 2017 hit “Before I Do.” In 2015, Streeter covered Aaliyah’s “Come Over” at the Essence Festival. The influence of Aaliyah is very clear in the song as the singer definitively declares, “If there were no Aaliyah there would be no Sevyn Streeter.”

  • 6. Normani

    In Normani’s single “Wild Side” featuring Cardi B, the singer pays homage to Aaliyah as it uses her “One In A Million.” In an interview in 2021, Normani reveals she was touched when she first began listening to the R&B icon. The rising artist said that Aaliyah is “one of her favorite artists of all time.”

  • 7. Jojo

    Jojo and Aaliyah were both signed to Blackground Records at a very young age and Jojo credits the late musician’s career trajectory in making her feel right at home.
    “That’s one of the reasons I felt so comfortable signing to Blackground Records, because they found Aaliyah when she was 14, and I signed to them when I was 12. So, they had experience in doing something that people said was impossible,” she told Vibe in 2016.

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