Young Money’s Drake has reflected on the impact late singer Aaliyah has had on his music career on what would have been her 32nd birthday today (January 16).
Drizzy credits Aaliyah’s music as a motivational factor in helping shape his own R&B talent.
“Aaliyah has probably had the most impact on my career because when I made a choice to start singing, it was because of something my father had told me, which was, ‘There’s no rapper out there that sings and raps and does both things well.’ And he’s like, ‘In order to be successful, you’re going to need something other than what everyone else is doing. So when I started singing — I was rapping already at the time so I had an identity in rap but when I started singing, I needed something to reference…I didn’t ever want it to be a male because then I would sound like that person, so I just found comfort in all of Aaliyah’s music. And her melody choices and the things she talks about and how she conveyed these amazing emotions but she never got too sappy. She always kept it ‘G.'” (Soul Culture)
Last August, on the anniversary of her passing, Drake released a dedication letter in memory of Aaliyah.
“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!” (Statement)
He also showed admiration for Aaliyah on his Thank Me Later debut.
“Unforgettable,” produced by Noah “40” Shebib, also features Young Jeezy. The number begins with Aaliyah softly cooing, “Let me know,” over and over, part of her refrain from “(At Your Best) You Are Love,” which was on her 1994 debut, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. “This is really one of my dumbest flows ever, I haven’t slept in days/ And me and my latest girl agreed to go our separate ways,” Drake raps on the track. “So I’m single, thinking about what we had in ‘Missin’ You’/ But I ain’t saying I don’t got nothing for these bad bi—es, too.” (MTV)
Aaliyah passed away from a plane crash in August 2001.
A star in the R&B world before she was even out of her teens, Aaliyah’s promising career was tragically cut short by her death in a plane crash at age 22. Even with only three albums under her belt, she’d already earned a place as a talented trendsetter among the R&B elite. Following a successful transition to a more mature image, Aaliyah played a major role in popularizing the stuttering, futuristic production style that consumed hip-hop and urban soul in the late ’90s. (All Music)
Check out Drake speaking on Aaliyah below: