R. Kelly gets a lot of criticism for a lot of things. And deservedly so.
But are we really gonna let him slide for stealing Aaron Hall’s whole entire swag in the early 90s?
Aaron Hall, When You Need Me, 1993
R. Kelly, Sex Me, 1993
Two sex-obsessed bald dudes with the same look and similar sound who branched out to go solo at the same time? Not a coincidence. But while one went on to enjoy unprecedented success, the other didn’t live up to potential.
What ever happened to Aaron Hall?
Get your popcorn, this bout to be a long, messy story. Strap in.
The story of Aaron Hall actually starts with Guy.
Andddddd there’s a reference only four of you will get. Congratulations.
Guy was formed in the late 1980s in Harlem when childhood friends Teddy Riley and Timmy Gatling decided to team up. The pair previously had worked with the band Kids at Work and knew there was chemistry there. Eventually they were joined by Bronx native Aaron Hall, who had worked with Gatling at the department store Abraham & Straus.
Manager Gene Griffin introduced the trio to Andre Harrell, who signed them to Uptown Records and led to the release of their self-titled debut in June 1988.
The trio who were signed at the time would not be the trio that would later headline tours as the Guy we know and love.
You, see Aaron Hall and Gatling wound up not getting along very well during the recording process.
As you’ll soon learn, my dude Aaron has a knack for pissing people off.
Gatling would be replace by Aaron’s brother Damion Hall, officially solidifying the trio. Oh, and don’t worry too much about Gatling – he’d drop his own album a year later and go on to pen several 90s his, including “Promises, Promises” for Christopher Williams and “When Will I See You Smile Again?” for Bell Biv DeVoe. The bag was firmly secured.
Meanwhile, Guy would go on to become the architects of the New Jack Swing sound. They don’t get NEARLY enough credit today for helping to shape one of R&B’s most defining eras. Their 1988 debut would go double platinum and their sophomore effort, The Future, would see platinum success as well.
Your current fave could never.
Ironically, after the success of The Future, the future was looking mighty bleak for Guy.
…I’ll see myself out.
Actually, in this case it was the group that decided to bounce. After issues with their manager Griffin, the guys decided to go their separate ways, with Teddy continuing to build his resume as one of R&B’s GOAT producers and Damion dropping his own album, Straight to the Point in 1994.
And Aaron? Well, he’s the reason why you’re here, right?
By 1992, Aaron was already an established name. But after “Don’t Be Afraid” dropped, he was no longer “that guy from, uh, Guy.” He was his own man.
The single would be featured on the Juice soundtrack and GOOD LORD this song was everywhere in ’92. It didn’t take long for it to rocket to the top of the R&B charts, officially making Aaron a solo star.
The success of “Don’t Be Afraid” lead to 1993’s The Truth, Aaron’s debut LP, which of course included his breakout hit as well. “Get A Little Freaky With Me” and “When You Need Me” were moderate follow-ups, leaning on Hall’s “Nasty Man” persona from the Guy days, but they all paled in comparison to THIS, the SADDEST VIDEO OF ALL TIME:
“Every time I lay at night, all I do is cry/I DO LOVE YOU BAY BAY”
Want to make this song even sadder? Word is that the video was inspired by Aaron’s young son, who died soon after birth in 1994.
If you aren’t shedding tears your heart ain’t nothing but a pile of dried up Triscuits and your soul got an eviction notice. “I Miss You” became one of the biggest songs of its era, Aaron’s signature hit and reached No. 2 on the R&B charts.
After spending a few years wrestling with legal troubles – more on that later – Aaron returned in 1998 with his sophomore release, Inside of You. Due to it landing near the end of 1998, a year I’ve labeled as one of the most important in hip-hop and R&B history, it was easily overshadowed by more high profile releases. But the album was pretty solid, and the lead single, “All the Places (I Will Kiss You),” still goes. It became a top 10 R&B hit. Still, that wasn’t enough to give the album enough juice, as it failed to match the buzz of Aaron’s early ’90s success.
Things would quickly look up for Aaron a year later, when the Hall brothers would FINALLY reunite with Teddy Riley for one more shot at glory. Guy III dropped in 1999 with the lead single “Dancin.” Personally, I wasn’t a fan of this one back then, nor was I a fan of their Negro Matrix look in the video. But after revisiting it for this post I gotta admit it’s pretty catchy.
Shocking fact for R&B fans – “Dancin” became Guy’s biggest crossover hit, climbing to No. 19 on the pop charts. Nope, not “I Like” or “Let’s Chill.” “Dancin'” is their biggest claim to pop fame. Life is weird.
Unfortunately, “Dancin'” had the radio hype but didn’t get those cash registers ringing. Guy III underperformed and once again, Guy was but a memory.
In 2004, Aaron tried one more shot at glory. Declaring that “I’m not a slave anymore” to his former MCA deal, he launched his own label Head Start Music Group and dropped his third solo LP, Adults Only: The Final Album the following year. Now I know this album gets a lot of love from Aaron and Guy stans, but I’m sorry, this ain’t it, chief. Aaron still sounded pretty good but the writing and production were not up to the standards of prior releases. I mean, even the album cover looks like one of those club fliers people stick under your car’s wiper blades. Adults Only barely registered as a blip on R&B’s radar.
And oh yeah, remember how Aaron claimed Adults Only would be his final album? Well, SCRATCH THAT because he planned to try it again. Sounding like a Marvel movie villain, Aaron proclaimed that due to the lack of respect from peers and labels, he would return under a completely new persona to release new music and get the respect he deserved.
The name of this persona? I kid you not – E. Kane.
NIGHTS LIKE THIS I WISH RAINDROPS WOULD FAAAAAAAAAALL
The proposed project, E. Kane the O.G., allegedly would feature him singing over hip-hop beats. That never saw the light of day (WHEW), with Aaron instead spending the next few years with trying to get a Guy reunion off the ground. Sadly, things always seemed to fall apart just when they were getting traction and we still haven’t gotten that reunion that has been teased for nearly a decade now.
In the meantime, Aaron released “Aaron Hall’s Dog Rehab,” a weird reality show where he served as some sort of dog whisperer. Sounds like just the type of weirdness Vh1 would have picked up in 2009 to air between I Love New York and Megan Wants A Millionaire.
These days, he’s still relatively active on Facebook (or, at least, his social media team is) but no word of a new album yet. Y’all will just have to keep uplifting prayers for that E. Kane trap album.
Wellllll, playas, here’s the part of the story I’ve kinda been avoiding. Y’all know I try my best to stay away from the tabloid gossip in these posts. Y’all can check those other sites for that foolishness. But there’s no way I can tell Aaron’s story without telling … sigh, THOSE stories.
If you think Chris Brown n’ dem have a lot of controversy, playa please, Aaron Hall is the original R&B Drama King.
Remember those legal troubles I mentioned earlier that slowed his career? In 1996, Hall pleaded guilty to assault for attacking his ex-girlfriend, and was sentenced to five years of probation. A few years later he was ordered to undergo two years of anger management training BUT when he failed to show up for one of the sessions (with Aaron claiming he was delayed while traveling to witness the birth of his son) he wound up serving 11 months in Rikers Island.
In 2014, Aaron sat down with Vlad TV interview and LOST HIS MIND in one of the most infamous viral vids of all time, calling Teddy Riley a “square n***a”; boasting about his “historical d***” and how everyone from Puffy to Jodeci has seen it in action; and probably most infamously, bragging about how easily he bedded video vixen Gloria Velez, claiming he just “grabbed her hand, went upstairs and f***ed her,” even saying that she was so enamored that she tatted his name above her vagina three days later.
Can you IMAGINE if this thing dropped in today’s Twitter climate?!
Gloria wasn’t having it.
Velez, who gave birth to Aaron’s son Aaron IV at age 17, clapped back, accusing him of abuse and labeling him as a deadbeat dad who has never contributed to the care of their child. Hall, of course, has denied the abuse and says all attempts at child support were turned down.
Gloria was so pissed that she hit the studio for a diss track!
WROTE A SONG ABOUT IT. LIKE TO HEAR IT? HERE IT GO.
The most damaging shot was Gloria basically calling Aaron a pedophile for seducing her at 16 when he was in his 30s. Lord, R. Kelly already stole the man’s look, now he’s stealing Aaron’s dating habits.
Get BET on the line – we need that three-night Guy biopic ASAP.
Should He Come Back?: Considering the current surge of R&B nostalgia going on, I’m confident a Guy reunion would do BIG business. Teddy’s still got the magic touch and interest will be there. But as a solo act, Aaron’s days might be done. The early years of his solo run were very promising but he just couldn’t outrun his demons. And lord knows the think pieces would chew him to pieces if he tried any of his antics today.
Aaron, make amends with Teddy but PLEASE stay away from Vlad TV interviews.