10 Years Later, Aaliyah’s Still Charting Paths for Babygirls Everywhere

It's been 10 years since hip-hop's princess died tragically in a plane crash. But her songs, style and love live on.

By Jamilah King Aug 25, 2011

It’s been exactly 10 years since R&B artist Aaliyah died tragically in plane crash on her way back to the U.S. from a video shoot in the Bahamas. At 22, the hip-hop princess and Chicago native, affectionately known as "babygirl" to fans and stars alike, had already accomplished more than most mainstream artists: sold millions of records, won the industry’s biggest awards and embarked on a promising film career. What was so tragic about her death was the abrupt way in which it happened; unexpectedly, ostensibly while she was in the process of making her art and in the pinnacle of her fame. Unlike so many of music’s tragedies, Aaliyah’s death was neither the result of inner demons nor externals beefs. It just seemed to happen, for no reason at all.

What’s left are the songs, dances, videos and style of a woman who forged the path for the artists who came after her, including today’s megastars like Beyonce, Rihanna and rapper Drake. In "Try Again" and "Are You That Somebody?", two of my favorite videos from Aaliyah’s arsenal, those qualities are each on display as she cooly flirts her way into viewers’ hearts. The words Aaliyah used to describe herself were simple: "street, but sweet." A perfect way to also capture the legions of young girls of color like myself who grew up trying to emulate her confidence. 


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