Aaliyah: Came to give love

 Find fun in everything you do.”
Aaliyah, MTV Diary 2001

Love to Aaliyah's family and friends, and those who passed on with her:  Hairstylist Eric Forman, makeup artist Christopher Maldonado, bodyguard Scott Gallin, Virgin Records executive Douglas Kratz, hairstylist Anthony Dodd, Blackground staff Gina Smith, Keith Wallace  and pilot Luis Morales III
Love to Aaliyah’s family and friends, and those who passed on with her: Hairstylist Eric Forman, makeup artist Christopher Maldonado, bodyguard Scott Gallin, Virgin Records executive Douglas Kratz, hairstylist Anthony Dodd, Blackground staff Gina Smith, Keith Wallace and pilot Luis Morales III

Aaliyah,

the talented songstress with the fluttery falsetto was born in Brooklyn, New York  and throughout her career; reporters, fans and her contemporaries  would comment on her down-to-earth nature and sweetness.

Aaliyah Star Search
Aaliyah (11) competed on Star Search singing “My Funny Valentine,” lost, and cried. Photo: Reuters

She broke-out onto the mainstream music scene in 1994 aged just 15 with the edgy single “Back & Forth”, from her debut LP Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. Aaliyah’s voice slinking along over tough hip hop beats on the album created a young and fresh sound.

Her version of the Isley Brothers’ song “At Your Best (You Are Love)”, is preceded with a stirring A Capella intro. Her crystal cut delivery makes her performance all the more innocent and vulnerable. It’s a defining moment – much like when little Michael Jackson donned a purple hat and belted out the first words of “Who’s Loving You” on the Ed Sullivan show – you stop and listen because it’s so captivating.

“She made that hip hop look sexy for women wearing men’s clothes. It created a whole new look. It was sexy but classic.” Andy Hilfiger for Tommy Jeans, in 1996

Andy Hilfiger cast Aaliyah to sport men’s boxers under baggy jeans with a tight tube top in a 1996 Tommy Jeans ad campaign also featuring Mark Ronson and Kidada Jones. Photo: Hilfiger
Andy Hilfiger cast Aaliyah to sport men’s boxers under baggy jeans in a 1996 Tommy Jeans ad campaign also featuring Mark Ronson and Kidada Jones. Photo: Hilfiger
Aaliyah and friend/producer Missy Elliott would speak in interviews on how they challenged each other on who would wear a dress first. Aaliyah lost the bet. Photo: Showtime Says
Aaliyah and friend/producer Missy Elliott would speak in interviews on how they challenged each other on who would wear a dress first. Aaliyah lost the bet. Photo: Showtime Says

Stepping into the limelight as an elegant hip-hop tomboy – she was known for her baggy leather pants and sunglasses – she naturally blossomed into a graceful siren by the time her self-titled third album was released in 2001 .   Her producer and friend Missy Elliott told a sweet story to Vibe Magazine:

“We had a bet as to who was going to wear a dress first, cause neither one of us used to wear dresses. One day, I saw he r in a dress, and I was like, ‘wait a minute, this girl owes me some money’.”

One in a Million was released in 1996 and Aaliyah turned from newcomer to trendsetter, discovering a cutting-edge sound by working with Missy Elliott and Timbaland on a majority of the tracks. The lead single, “If Your Girl Only Knew”, has an unusual grinding-twang pulse beat and Aaliyah’s harmonies seem to control the chords.

Aaliyah arranged the vocals on “Got To Give it Up”. Slick Rick references Aaliyah’s cover of the Isleys in his rap on the Marvin Gaye re-working: One in a Million was ranked number 90 on Rolling Stone's 100 greatest albums of the 90s list.
Aaliyah arranged the vocals on the Marvin Gaye re-working of “Got To Give it Up” featuring Slick Rick. The album ranked at number 90 on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest albums of the 90s list. Photo: Google Screen Capture

Paul Hunter also credits Aaliyah for consciously  kickstarting his career when she picked him to direct “Got to Give It Up” and the massive “One in a Million” videos. “One in a Million” would define a new sound in soul music. The album solidified Aaliyah’s personal sense of style and self and set her apart for being a visionary.

“There’s a thing that you see when somebody walks out on the stage, I call it the fire. They got that inner fire, which has nothing to do with the schooling, nothing to do with the teacher, nothing to do with the parents. There is a desire in that person to please the audience. You see enough of it to recognize it. And that’s what I saw with Aaliyah.”
- Ed McMahonStar Search host

After six hits on the album, she spent the next years training in acting. Although she was missed on the music scene, she did appear on soundtracks during her hiatus. In 1997 she released “Journey To The Past” for Anastasia, which gained her an Academy Award nomination and in 1998,  she released “Are You That Somebody”,  for Dr DooLittle.

Timbaland called Aaliyah his muse; he has said that she encouraged him to go leftfield in his production. After her passing, he released an album, which featured his last recording which featured Aaliyah and Static.  On "I Am Music", Aaliyah's voice is delectable, her ad-libs are unmistakeable and the lyrics she sings are poignant. It's a heartfelt reminder of Aaliyah's impact on music and on people's lives.
Timbaland called Aaliyah his muse; he has said that she encouraged him to go leftfield in his production. After her passing, he released an album, which featured his last recording which featured Aaliyah and Static. On “I Am Music”, Aaliyah’s voice is delectable, her ad-libs are unmistakeable and the lyrics she sings are poignant. It’s a heartfelt reminder of Aaliyah’s impact on music and on people’s lives.

The synth-funk track, which had Timbaland beatboxing and the sample of a baby laughing (from Perrey and Kingsley’s “Countdown at 6″) earned Aaliyah a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance and was a world wide smash.

“I am truly blessed to wake up every morning and do something that I love. There’s nothing better than that. You’ve gotta love what you do, to wanna do it everyday.  Sometimes I’m taken aback and I’m just like…I  can’t believe it. I can definitely say  I’m a truly happy young person. There’s so much more I wanna do in my career and I’m gonna work hard to do and to achieve.” - Aaliyah, MTV Diary 2001

The back cover for Aaliyah's final album shows off her dove tattoo which was a tribute to her late grandmother
The back cover for Aaliyah’s final album shows off her dove tattoo which was a tribute to her late grandmother

In 2000 her first starring role  saw Aaliyah mix hip hop and kung fu with Jet Li in Romeo Must Die. It was a box office success in 2000, and Aaliyah had four superb tracks on the excellent original soundtrack which sold over a million copies. The role once again was edgy, injecting interracial relationship battles into the  Romeo and Juliet story.

Aaliyah also landed the huge role of playing the 6,000-year-old Egyptian vampire Akasha in Queen of the Damned. Her acting coach, Joanne Baron, would tell how hard Aaliyah worked to gain it:

“Director Michael Rymer had asked her to do a piece from a play called Salomé. She came in on her knees like a cat, growling, ‘I’m the woman that you left,’ and she did this with such brilliant physicality and vocality. She crawled round on the floor for two hours, moving about the room in unbelievable fluidity, acting this thing to perfection.  She put her heart, her time, her love and her life into it. She just ripped it out.”

Based in Australia for the role, Aaliyah would film during the day and work on her album in the evenings. She completed her scenes and released her eponymous album Aaliyah in 2001, she was 22.

Aaliyah: We Need a Resolution. Directed by Paul Hunter
Aaliyah: We Need a Resolution. Directed by Paul Hunter

In interviews she revealed she self-titled the album because lyrically, it was her most personal album to date. She worked again with the late singer/rapper Static, from the group Playa, who wrote “Are You that Somebody” because she credited him as writing lyrics which she related to.

The lead single “We Need A Resolution”, about an argument, is very dark and futuristic sounding. The video is its equal; Aaliyah bellydances with a snake, swings in a vortex and dances over a disgruntled beat with such charisma it makes your eyes dance. The song’s Middle-Eastern feeling gave insight into the fusion of influences that would contribute to the album.

Aaliyah: More Than A Woman
Aaliyah: More Than A Woman

Aaliyah boldly explores the highs and lows of love on the album with poise and interesting technique over songs which fuse hiphop and soul with electronica, dub and metal, to name a few genres. Her vocal performances range from falsetto, staccato and at times soprano and her emotions shift from sexy and satisfied to complete fury. Like Diana Ross she conveys a story in each song and she tells it with conviction and passion – whether she’s singing about her career, being the other woman or the joys of sex.

Ernest Hardy of Rolling Stone Magazine compared the album’s musical experimentation to OutKast’s Stankonia and Sade’s Lovers Rock.

Christopher John Farley of Time Magazine, who met Aaliyah a few times, heralded her a gentle, humble person. He was impressed how her young voice had matured on the album. He said: “Her gentle voice now seems like something elemental, a kindly wind blowing through the branches of a big tree”.

“Rock The Boat”, directed by Hype Williams, was Aaliyah’s final video-shoot; it was filmed back to back with “More Than a Woman”, directed by Dave Meyers.

By accounts of those on the video shoot for “Rock The Boat” it was a happy time for Aaliyah. She had expressed that she had beaten her fear of being underwater, filming a gorgeous scene wearing a long gown which is seen in the music clip. She thanked everyone on the shoot when it wrapped up and spoke to a young fan for 15 minutes on the way to the airport.

Rock The Boat: Aaliyah under water. Photo: Fanpop
Rock The Boat: Aaliyah beating her fear of being under water. Photo: Fanpop
Aaliyah’s “Came To Give Love (Outro)” on One In A Million is a beautiful reminder anyday that Aaliyah’s life was a fulfilled one. Listen to it here:

“Everything is worth it, the hard work, the times your tired, the times when you’re a bit sad. In the end it’s all worth it, because it really makes me happy, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’ve got good friends, I’ve got beautiful family, and  I’ve got a career. I am truly blessed and I thank God for his blessings every single chance I get.”Aaliyah, MTV Diary 2001

 

Love to Aaliyah’s family and friends, and those who passed on with her:  Hairstylist Eric Forman, makeup artist Christopher Maldonado, bodyguard Scott Gallin, Virgin Records executive Douglas Kratz, hairstylist Anthony Dodd, Blackground staff Gina Smith, Keith Wallace  and pilot Luis Morales III

The Baby Bee Who Went Into Space is ready to launch – My first book illustrated by @__Emms_

The Baby Bee Who Went Into Space: A colourful children's storybook
The Baby Bee Who Went Into Space: A colourful children’s storybook

I am excited to launch the first in a series of children’s books in collaboration with a wonderful illustrator and friend.

The Baby Bee Who Went Into Space includes a colourful short story; a spot the difference; a find the animals task and a colouring book! It is available to buy here.
Available to buy on Amazon. Profile page: BabyBeeBooks on Twitter and Facebook
Available to buy on Amazon. Profile page: BabyBeeBooks on Twitter and Facebook
Related Links:
Post by The Baby Bee Books.

#NaPoWriMo: New Poem: Microaggressions (part 1)

Microaggressions part 1
Microaggressions part 1

Today a new colleague asked me : “Where are you from?”
and she told me that I don’t look Indian.
She shrugged off my reply and said: “What about your parents then?”
I told her: “From Bradford, second generation.”

An old colleague confuses me with the last Asian face
I replaced.
Alma’s been on maternity leave for nearly a year and my name is too hard to remember.
When I correct him he struggles to say Selina
and jokes that my name could be easier.

Daily Poem Prompt : Rewrite a famous poem – Muhammad Ali’s Recipe for Life #NaPoWriMo

The prompt today reminds me I want to pay tribute to many people including one of my favourite poets: Muhammad Ali. I am working on a tribute. For now here’s my recreation of his Recipe for Life.

I tried to recreate Muhammad Ali’s recipe for Life

As yet I haven’t mastered it right.

I need more patience. My ingredients are running low.
I put in too much laughter, when it’s more concern I add to grow.

Faith is an acquired taste and can get a little tricky.
I  keep a bagful with me, in case I need some quickly.
My friends use little and large between them and I ask for their advice.
I use more alone so as not to offend because I want to do it right.
It’s always there though not running spare as I don’t want to run out -
Noone can argue with love and happiness I freely spread them about.

My generosity
needs filling up, I’m a few cups short of the recipe.
Concern and kindness are in large supply but my problem is the moderation.
Willingness is somewhere in the back, a few burns is what used up all my patience.

Once it’s perfected, upon reflection,
I can say I learnt from the greatest.

Poem of the day: The interchange #NaPoWriMo

Wolves made out of Sheep's fur The divide multiplies: The interchange
The divide multiplies: The interchange

Am I a threat or threatened?

Even the walls have eyes and ears.
I walk through the interchange with fear of being feared.

What’s that I hear?
Grunts as they speak about me.
Can I believe what I see?
Parents grabbing hands, distinctly removing loved ones from me.
From my path.

Is it paranoia?
What is it that I possess?
You judge me from the way I dress.
From the beige in my face.

What a fall from grace.

If you look me up you’ll find I always lived by the book.
Suddenly my mind is over-conscious – I used to blend in, now do I even fit in?

Noone’s winning,
Just dividing.

Faith lost in pretenders.

Objective becomes selective.
Now more people look beyond a lens and a self-fulfilling agenda.
Amid soul searching and scrolling,
petitioning and polling.

The divide multiplies.

I walk through the interchange intolerable.
Eyes closed, music on.

Poem – Daily prompt for #NaPoWriMo: Write a lune

Yesterday’s challenge from NaPoWriMo.net  was to write a lune – a take on the Japenese haiku.

The Scream by Edvard Munch-art
Judged for facing their realities: The Scream by Edvard Munch

Striking

His smile pleases
Hers arouses suspicion and anger
Ignorance is dangerous.

They enforce fear
She must live a lie
Ignorance is intolerance.

She cuts her
It is never spoken about
ignorance is destined.

He bloodies him
He calls him a deviant
Ignorance drives hate.

They are labelled
Judged for facing their realities
Ignorance is prejudice.

She speaks up
Nobody knows how to help
Ignorance kills lives.

Poetry: Immigrant #NaPoWriMo

The bottom line - to cap it all
The bottom line – to cap it all

Forgive me –I broke the law,
But if you had walked in my shoes and saw what I saw,
You’d know my motives,
So my children can live,
a better life, and too, their kids.

A Mexican working hard in the US to support families,
left behind,
south of the border, with no peace of mind – whether she’s been shot, by an Arizona ranger – whether he’s been jailed, by Operation Gatekeeper.

Lost across the Imperial Desert or over the mountains north of Tecate.
Mexicans  drown in canals and rivers. While the army militarize the border…

A 30 hour coach journey, in the faith of living better.
Only to die of dehydration, hypothermia or xenophobia.

Busloads of Polish people, skilled in many trades,
make the journey from Warsaw to the land of opportunity, the UK.

Better healthcare, better pay, this is the European Union
Only to find themselves taken advantage of and spit upon for taking the jobs natives can’t or refuse to work in.

Was this the freedom envisaged?
Working 7 days a week, paid cheap for their keep.

Laws let goods and money freely cross borders, yet impose a form of class warfare against when it comes to workers.

Not free to move with changing economic conditions in the same manner that businesses can move their capital.

And that’s the bottom line, to cap it all.

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