Aaliyah is coming.
A day after her label teased a big announcement, Aaliyah’s uncle, Blackground Records founder Barry Hankerson, has confirmed that the late singer’s catalog is finally coming to streaming services, 20 years after her death.
In an interview with Billboard, Hankerson revealed a new partnership with independent distributor EMPIRE that will make the entire Blackground catalog, including Aaliyah’s discography, available to stream for the first time ever.
A total of 17 albums by Blackground artists including Timbaland & Magoo, Tank, Toni Braxton, and JoJo will arrive over the next two months.
On Aug. 20, EMPIRE will release Aaliyah’s One in a Million, followed each week in the original chronology of Blackground releases. Timbaland & Magoo’s Welcome to Our World, Indecent Proposal, and Under Construction Pt. II, as well as Timbaland’s solo album, Tim’s Bio, will drop Aug. 27. On Sept. 3, the Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds soundtracks will arrive.
On Sept. 10, Aaliyah’s third self-titled album will be released alongside the music video for “Miss You.” Tank’s trio of albums–Force of Nature, One Man and Sex, and Love & Pain—drop Sept. 17, followed by JoJo’s first two albums—2004’s JoJo and 2006’s The High Road—on Sept. 24. In October, Toni Braxton’s Libra and two Aaliyah compilations, I Care 4 U and Ultimate Aaliyah, will hit streaming services.
We gone show you how to party 😉 pic.twitter.com/mBLiB6b1sG
— Blackground Records 2.0 (@Blackground) August 5, 2021
Hankerson revealed that his estranged relationship with his sister, Aaliyah’s mother Diane, is part of the reason for the delay.
“Since the death of my niece, I don’t have the same relationship I used to have with my sister,” he said. “We were very close when we grew up. I don’t know if anybody can imagine, but when you lose a child, or a niece that you really loved, it was difficult for my family. So a lot of things in my family changed.”
Hankerson has not spoken to his sister regularly since Aaliyah’s death. “I’m prayerful that she supports what we’re doing, but at the end of the day we’ll all find out [whether she supports the deal] probably at the same time,” he added. “I miss her and I love her. I wish we had the same relationship that we had years ago. I love my sister.”
Aaliyah’s estate says the distribution deal with EMPIRE was finalized without their input. However, they currently don’t plan to pursue legal action even though issues of accounting remain unresolved.
“Protecting Aaliyah’s legacy is, and will always be, our focus,” the estate said in a statement. “For 20 years we have battled behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception in connection with unauthorized projects targeted to tarnish. We have always been confused as to why there is such a tenacity in causing more pain alongside what we already have to cope with for the rest of our lives.”
The statement continued, “Ultimately, we desire closure and a modicum of peace so we can facilitate the growth of the Aaliyah Memorial Fund and other creative projects that embody Aaliyah’s true essence, which is to inspire strength and positivity for people of all creeds, races and cultures around the world.”
Additionally, Hankerson shared plans for a posthumous album of new Aaliyah music with features from Drake, Future, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, and Snoop Dogg, while Timbaland has remixed and produced some of the music.
“It has been really nice,” Hankerson said of the new recordings. “The only part that has been a little distasteful has been so many people being angry with me because the music didn’t come out when they wanted it. But I learned to live with that. There’s nothing I can do about it.”