15 Years Since Her Death, We’ve Still Got To Give It Up To Aaliyah – & Slick Rick (Video)
On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah Haughton and eight others were lost in a fatal plane crash. In the years since, the singer’s influence on not only music but also fashion continues to be seen and heard. Today, on the 15th anniversary of her death, scores of fans are taking to social media to commemorate the spirit we remember so fondly as Baby Girl.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Aaliyah would go on to be raised in Detroit, Michigan, where she attended the city’s School of the Fine and Performing Arts. According to Re’chell “Chell” Crowel, a Detroit singer and songwriter interviewed by William E. Ketchum III for B.L.A.C. Detroit, Aaliyah was already fostering her now-iconic look back then. “Crowell still remembers Aaliyah’s signature style back then: baggy jackets, sunglasses and bandanas. The same type of look she associates with her city,” he writes. That’s the look she sports in the video for “Got to Give It Up,” a lesser-known single from her 1996 double-platinum album One In a Million. Featuring Slick Rick, it’s a revamp of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song of the same name, which he co-wrote with Art Stewart (and which is still the subject of a contentious legal battle involving Pharrell Williams). Stateside, Aaliyah’s version failed to chart, mainly due to the fact it was not made available for widespread radio airplay.
Nevertheless, the song was given the music-video treatment and was directed by Paul Hunter, the visionary behind Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” Puffy’s “It’s All About the Benjamins,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Find a Way,” TLC’s “Unpretty,” and also Aaliyah’s “One In a Million.” For “Got to Give It Up,” Hunter and the creative team behind the video concept enlisted the help of a very special guest, namely one Marvin Gaye. Appearing alongside Aaliyah thanks to the magic of editing, Gaye’s infinite contribution to the song was acknowledged with stunning simplicity. A less in-your-face, but nonetheless noticeable, appearance comes in the form of a “Billie Jean” sample thanks to producers Vincent “V.H.” Herbert and Craig King.
Thought not on site for the video, Slick Rick contributed a verse to the record. At the time of “Got to Give It Up”‘s recording, the Ruler was finishing up a five-year prison sentence which would end in 1997. On the album version, Rick contributed two verses and and two interludes, but his contributions on the video version were trimmed, presumably due to his inability to take part in the shoot in person. In the verse that made it to the song’s video version, Slick Rick includes a reference to another song of Aaliyah’s, namely “At Your Best (You Are Love),” her 1994 adaptation of yet another ’70s classic: the Isley Brothers’ song of the same name.
Encased in a glass box, Aaliyah eventually breaks out of its confines to join the crowd of adoring fans on the dancefloor and into the streets, where her memory continues to sing and dance, 15 years later.
Bonus Beat: Today’s bittersweet milestone will be swiftly followed by another marking Aaliyah’s contributions to the world. On Saturday (August 27), her double-platinum selling album One In a Million will mark its 20th anniversary. In acknowledgment of the event, Heads can revisit one of the album’s deeper cuts, the Treach-assisted “A Girl Like You.”
Aaliyah would go on to release “The One I Gave My Heart To” as One In a Million‘s final and highest-charting single, peaking at number nine. However, the lackluster chart performance of the other singles would soon be avenged, thanks to the chart-topping success of “Are You That Somebody?” in 1998, “Try Again” in 2000, and the moderately successful “We Need a Resolution” in 2001. That song would prove to be the final single released before Aaliyah’s death, after which the Grammy-nominated “More Than a Woman” and “Rock the Boat” helped make her July, 2001 self-titled LP a huge success.
Bonus Bonus Beat: Tim Westwood released today (August 25) an interview with then-17-year-old Aaliyah, where the two touch upon not only her new music (including a mention of “Got To Give It Up”), but also about her perspective of the industry given her young age and success.
Rest in peace, sweet Aaliyah.