Aubrey “Drake” Graham and Noah “40” Shebib are back to work, still they smell like a vacation. The OVO boys are not working on Drake’s third studio release or even a YMCMB compilation, instead they are in the studio taking unreleased recordings of the late Aaliyah and creating entirely new material. The news of Drake co-producing the singer’s second posthumous release has been met with excitement, skepticism and confusion. Who is Drake to recast the immortal songbird in his image, to lay her vocals over the same muted drums that have made him a household name. Wasn’t Drake like seven when she died anyway!? What is he doing being entrusted with Aaliyah’s musical legacy?
In early August at Toronto’s OVO Fest, Drake premiered “Enough Said” which featured never before heard Aaliyah vocals and a verse from Mr. OVOXO himself. The song was loved by some but received a lot of negative feedback from longtime Aaliyah fans. Public outrage began burning even more fiercely when it was discovered that Timbaland and Missy Elliott were not going to be involved with the project. Aaliyah’s most frequent collaborators were apparently not even contacted by Drake, 40, or Blackground Records. The question then shifted from Drake’s credentials to his ego. How could Missy and Timbo not even be involved on the project even if just in an advisory capacity? Did he think he could best the VA duo in properly honoring Aaliyah? Would Aaliyah have even liked his heart-on-my-sleeve rap or 40’s beat selection?
Blackground Records, the label owned by Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager Barry Hankerson, and his son, Jomo Hankerson, have a long history with Missy and Timbaland. It goes all the way back to 1997 when the label released Welcome to Our World by Timbaland and Magoo. The label has also released every Aaliyah album to appear in stores, including the posthumous I Care 4 U which has sold nearly 2 million copies since its release in 2001. In an interview with Billboard, Jomo Hankerson said, “Timbaland will be involved with this project. One of the records that we had that was never released was a Missy record that we obviously are going to be refreshing,”
The dynamic duo, who have been responsible for more hits than the top of the Yankees batting order, have vehemently denied being contacted concerning the project. This is even more strange considering Blackground released Timbaland presents Shock Value II which actually featured Drake on the single “Say Something”. In a statement Missy Elliot released through her manager Mona Scott-Young, she said:
“Although Missy and Timbaland always strive to keep the memory of their close friend alive, we have not been contacted about the project nor are there any plans at this time to participate. We’ve seen the reports surfacing that they have been confirmed to participate but that is not the case. Both Missy and Timbaland are very sensitive to the loss still being felt by the family so we wanted to clear up any misinformation being circulated.”
Why were Timbaland and Missy not contacted concerning the project? Some industry insiders are speculating that it is because Missy and Tim are past their prime. Fifteen years ago they were groundbreaking and envelope pushing but now they are *gasp* old school. In the aforementioned interview, Jomo Hankerson goes on to say:
“We really felt like it was time. There’s a real new generation that doesn’t know her necessarily, and we wanted to continue her musical legacy with this new generation. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to do very contemporary music. We didn’t want to make it a nostalgic project; we already did that with the I Care 4 U album. The idea was to release new music for her diehard fans, and also reintroduce her music to a new generation that doesn’t really understand how much influence she has in the music that they’re listening to today.”
Blackground Records particularly reached out to Drake and 40 because of their very public appreciation of her music and their involvement on Alicia Keys’ “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)”, which 40 produced. One thing is certain, however misguided the label’s decision was, the project would not be getting the hype it’s receiving if it was being co-produced by Missy and Timbaland instead of Drake and 40. The label recently said that the project is in its early stages of creation, so there seems to be more than enough time for apologies and songs to be made.
Drakes infatuation with Aaliyah has been the stuff bloggers dream of. Complex.com has compiled a thorough list of Drake’s over the top dedications to Aaliyah. The two tattoos (one on his back and another on his ear), the sampling of her voice for the Young Jeezy assisted “Unforgettable” and let us not forget the open love letter that would make even the most lovesick high school boy blush. Addressing Aaliyah by her middle name, he writes:
I’ve never lost a parent, a friend, or a lover but I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. I remember getting the news that you had passed and it connected with my heart like a clean shot from Muhammad Ali. I was crushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I was truly in love with you. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed passion and relationships in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life just like you. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being my career path. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up in heaven where I know you rest your head. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Dinner’s on me!
Love you always and forever,
Dame Dash, who was caught up in a whirlwind romance with the beloved singer/actress when she tragically died in a plane crash, said to Billboard’s The Juice:
“Anytime I can hear her voice, that’s a good thing. And anyone that respected her enough to make a record with her, I appreciate ya’ll. I haven’t heard the record, but I appreciate the art of it. I love hearing her voice. I hope it’s something that I haven’t heard before … Anything involving Aaliyah and it’s positive and the energy [is] right with it, I would be a part of it. My love for Aaliyah will never change.”