Why the Posthumous Aaliyah Album Is Causing Such an Uproar

Aaliyah lowering her sunglasses
Photo by Sal Idriss/Redferns via Getty Images

As is the case with most posthumous albums, reactions to the news that a new Aaliyah record will drop later this month were mixed. That was particularly true on Twitter, where fans essentially divided into two camps: those who rejoiced in the promise of new music from the late singer, who died 20 years ago in a plane crash, and those who were far from happy with her uncle and former manager, Barry Hankerson, of editing Aaliyah’s music and arguably capitalizing off of her name. (Profits made off of Aaliyah’s music go to him rather than her estate.) The latter camp saw a boost in membership on Tuesday, when the newly announced list of musicians who will make cameos on Unstoppable united many fans in uproar.

For starters, each and every one of those making cameos is a man. “Imagine having the [opportunity] to create a new Aaliyah album with an entire generation of women that were directly influenced (Ciara, Teyana, Tinashe, Normani, Jhene, CxH, H.E.R., Sevyn, etc.),” read a popular tweet posted by @AllThingsDante. “But instead we get Snoop Dogg, Neyo, Future, CB, a weird Weeknd song... yikes.” (There’s also Drake, whom Hankerson has described as “one of her biggest fans.)

Yes, the aforementioned “CB” would be Chris Brown. Which means that yes, an alleged serial abuser has collaborated with a survivor of abuse without her consent. In an interview with Billboard, Hankerson described Brown’s track as “vintage R&B with strong vocals,” noting that it was produced by Timbaland. “I look for that one to also get a very special reaction from listeners,” Hankerson added. Is he truly unaware or indifferent to Brown’s past actions and reputation? Or, worse yet, is he simply just trolling? In any case, many fans didn’t mince words when expressing their discontent, which was hardly limited to Brown. (We should note that the below tweets include opinions and references to allegations that have not officially been confirmed.)

Sadly, the estate of Aaliyah Haughton saw something like this coming. In a statement issued last summer, it warned of “unauthorized projects” and an “unscrupulous endeavor to release Aaliyah’s music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate” in the lead-up to the anniversary of her death at age 22. “Although we will continue to defend ourselves and her legacy lawfully and justly,” the estate continued, “we want to preempt the inevitable attacks on our character by all the individuals who have emerged from the shadows to leech off of Aaliyah's life's work.” The estate has yet to publicly comment on the release of Unstoppable, which does not have a specific release date apart from some time this month.