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The Tragedy of Aaliyah: Child Protection

I contemplated for at least a month whether or not I was going to write a short article about Aaliyah and in what direction the writing would take. You see, I’m a huge Aaliyah fan and I truly believe she had the potential to be a Mega Star. Her untimely death would not allow this to come to fruition but her contribution is still appreciated almost 16 years later. The purpose of this short article is to discuss how important it is to protect young artist/musicians when signing with a Record Label becomes a reality to them. The Music Industry can be very shady and I know this from associates I have in the industry. It’s vital to have a blanket shielding young artist from vultures and other predators. Our youth are taken advantage of on so many levels and the true adults in the situation must be reliable, responsible, attentive and focused not only on the music, but the total well-being of the artist. Outside of Aaliyah’s death which is of course the true tragedy in this equation, her entry into the music business had some shaky moments to say the least. I often wonder who was ultimately responsible for the abuse she endured.

In the Black Community we shy away from talking about the sexual misconduct many of our children face. Black boys and girls are taken advantage of more than we will ever know or care to admit. The offenders are often family members, friends of the family, lovers of family members and “Business Associates” of the family. Remember, your guardians main job is to protect you at all cost. I will not name any of Aaliyah’s family members in this writing. It is well documented that her immediate family were heavily involved with her career. I’m merely saying that at some point the warm blanket of love no longer protected her from cold individuals. One of the cold individual was R. Kelly and we can’t skim over the reality of this business arrangement. When you look back at the interactions, song lyrics and overall nature of their relationship, it’s puzzling. First things first, a family member introduced Aaliyah to R. Kelly and this is public knowledge, but I digress. R. Kelly would become the lead songwriter on her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. In retrospect the title of this album just doesn’t feel right but this is my personal observation. Now, the album is great but I often wonder were the lyrics directed towards R. Kelly. This is very disturbing given the fact Aaliyah was 15 years old when the LP was released and 14 years old during the recording.

Rumors started to circulate about their relationship. There were documents of an illegal marriage in August of 1994 that was annulled by her Parents 6 months later. The marriage certificate had Aailyah being 18 years of age. This information is a click away on Google so I will not bore you with too many details. Aaliyah publicly stated in interviews during this time that in between recordings they would go to the movies, out to eat and back to the studio. She echoed the sentiments that they were very close. What did this truly mean? I just don’t understand where her Managers were during this time as these were “DATES” going on in my estimation. Again, R. Kelly wasn’t the only “Cold” individual in this story. How does a 14-15 year old child get so much “free time” with an adult who is not a family member? How many other young musicians in the past have dealt with similar situations? Are we protecting our kids? Are we exploiting them for our own personal and financial gain? I’m simply amazed. As I stated in the intro paragraph, Aaliyah was exposed to some abuse whether we want to face it or not. The mature lyrics written for a 14 year old was mental abuse and manipulation if nothing else. After Aaliyah’s debut album and marriage controversy, she would start working on her Sophomore LP with Timberland and Missy Elliot. Aaliyah would not work with R. Kelly again.

Child Stars are forced to grow up faster than traditional kids in most cases. They are obligated to spend time around adults who might not have their best interest at heart. They are dollar signs among other things. This is of course the case for kids in general. At any rate, we can’t be afraid to address shady situations from the start. If something appears odd or inappropriate, it might warrant further investigation. I also scratch my head when a Black Person says “She was old enough to know what she was doing” or “These kids be acting grown so let them be grown.” Well, how irresponsible is this type of rhetoric and perspective in the grand scheme of things? The answer would be – VERY. How mature were you at 14-15 years of age? I’m willing to bet that you were as impressionable as any other young teen. The duty of legal guardians is to make sure their child (children) is protected by any means necessary. As I sit back listening to my favorite Aaliyah songs celebrating her life and legacy, I often think about what our kids experience at the hands of sociopaths.

Rest in Peace

Aaliyah - "If Your Girl Only Knew" -- Classic

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