Wanna get the Internet good and pissed off? Just hurl slander in the direction of one of its sacred cows.
Just look at my Twitter mentions. The Barbz are still whining about tweets I wrote two years ago.
Sixth-graders are soooooo cute when they threaten murder over the Internet.
And speaking of maladjusted children, let’s talk about the grim reaper of R&B, T-Pain. Social media went nuts this week following a meme that went viral where he claimed that Aaliyah’s death overhyped her legacy.
Before I speak on the AUDACITY of T-Pain – whose entire career consists of him sounding like the robot who sets up the voicemail on your cell phone – calling ANYONE overrated, let’s break down the facts behind this meme since it looks like no one bothered to research it.
For starters, the originating tweet is actually from way back in 2015:
— MOBO (@MOBOAwards) March 30, 2015
The link to the story has since been disabled (likely due to Aaliyah fans rioting in the streets) but I was able to dig up T-Pain’s quote from a, sigh, Bossip story posted the same day. I’d rather choke on T-Pain’s vocoder than link to a Bossip story but in the name of responsible journalism, here’s the actual quote:
“People tend to–I don’t know man– I’m not trying to discredit Aaliyah in any kind of way. But you know how sometimes when people die–yeah. You know how somebody’s an a**hole their whole life, but when you go to their funeral it’s like ‘This guy was the greatest man that ever walked…’ No, I’m just sayin’! No, I’m not saying Aaliyah. But it’s like because she passed, nobody is deserving of being next to her. Nobody’s good enough. Nobody is good enough because she passed. If she was still alive, then everybody would’ve been like, ‘Oh! She’s tryna be Beyoncé!’ If she were still alive right now. But now that she’s passed, it’s like ‘Nobody could be her! Nobody could be her!’ That’s just how I feel.”
So in fairness to T-Pain, the actual quote in context isn’t nearly as disrespectful as conversations claim on Twitter.
That doesn’t mean it’s accurate.
The man does have a point – an artist’s worth is always inflated in death. We’ve seen that just recently with the passing of XXXTentacion, who went from somewhat talented but horribly underachieving fringe rapper to THE VOICE OF A GENERATION and winner of best Soul/R&B album at the American Music Awards!?!?
And y’all wonder why I don’t cover the AMAs. Playa please.
But the case of Aaliyah is much, much different. Let’s look at her track record.
– Her debut record Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, went gold, spawned two hits (including one No. 1 single), and was backed by one of the hottest producers/writers in the game at the moment – her pissy mentor whom shall not be named.
– Her sophomore record, One in a Million, lived up to its name. Listen, y’all love talking about “movements” and “classics” in 2018, usually referring to flavor-of-the-months who are forgotten in a few weeks. Here’s a real movement. The title track of this album alone changed the course of R&B. When the brooding “One in a Million” dropped in 1996, it sounded like NOTHING else before it. While her contemporaries were still doing more traditional soul and pop, her sound embraced the moodier, atmospheric sound that would later be co-oped by the Drakes and Weeknds of the world.
That vibe-y music y’all love so much? That can be tracked all the way back to Timbaland’s landmark production and Aaliyah’s mellow vocals.
– After racking up more No. 1 singles, she went on to try her hand at Hollywood . While that was met with mixed results at best
And THAT foolishness at worst, her star was clearly rising.
She was set to have a big role in the massive Matrix franchise (think the Marvel Cinematic Universe of the early 2000s) before her untimely death.
– Her final album was only on shelves for about a month and a half before Aaliyah left us. It did OK but didn’t set the world on fire (as much as I personally like the song, “We Need a Resolution” wasn’t a wise choice for a first single.). “Rock the Boat” was destined to make a bigger impact, and it did, but Aaliyah had already left us.
Long story short, review the facts: Aaliyah made a name for herself during R&B’s hottest mainstream period, revolutionized the industry with a new sound that has shaped modern R&B and became a movie star.
Sounds like a pretty awesome legacy to me. I’ve always said that one’s legacy is defined by their influence on future generations. Ciara, Tinashe, Kehlani, Drake, Weeknd, basically every “moody” R&B singer in the past decade all owe a debt to Aaliyah.
Was Aaliyah a stellar vocalist? Nah, but she knew her lane and never overextended herself. Was she destined to take home an Academy Award? Probably not without some miracle-working acting coaches. Was the Aaliyah album a flop that only succeeded due to her death? It wasn’t an immediate smash hit but it’s unfair to judge it before the second (and best) single took off weeks later.
Newsflash: A person doesn’t have to be perfect to be impactful.
There’s no question that overzealous fans go too way far hyping their faves, propping up merely decent musicians as cultural icons and intellectual giants who allegedly would have taken the black race to the mountaintop if they were only here to save us all.
But we’re not talking about unreasonable stans. We’re talking facts. Aaliyah’s career was cut tragically short but her upward trajectory was clear.
Sometimes her worth is inflated by overeager fans, that’s true.
But her legacy cannot be questioned.