Each year on August 25th, the world grieves over the void our dear “Babygirl” left in 2001.
A true living example of her name — “highest most exaulted one” — Aaliyah is forever the queen of Hip-Hop infused R&B. She gave us so many gifts during her time on Earth: style, confidence, acting, grace, numerous hits, a signature sound and more. But her greatest body of work will always live in her music.
To celebrate her life and memory, here are five of her most underrated songs.
Straight off her debut album, Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But A Number, “I’m Down” proved Aaliyah’s title statement. She felt like an old soul, someone who couldn’t possibly be fifteen with this amount of talent and self awareness. The song’s harmonies and groove make for the perfect soundtrack of an aimless cruise in the summer streets.
“Choosey Lover Old/New School”
So many artists attempt to pay homage to the greats by covering their legendary songs. Some do them justice, while others fall short. But Aaliyah? With this rendition, neither statement could be said as she made The Isley Brothers’ original “Choosey Lover” her own. The smooth track begins with rich and airy vocals against a sensual beat laced in guitar riffs. Four minutes in, the song completely evolves into a new age R&B flow, making this track an instant classic worthy of any family cookout and kick it.
Seeping a silk and satin sound you can almost feel against your skin, “Loose Rap” brought an entirely new experience to music lovers. The song played around with the unconventional structure of resolution, soft vocals with confident lyrics that tackled both envy and lame lines from pick-up artists. Sugar, spice and everything nice. It’s surprising that this track didn’t garner more attention.
Inspired by a conversation between the songstress and producer Static, “Extra Smooth” plays on the instances when a man attempts to be suave. It almost works as an extension to “Loose Rap”–same use of resolution and subject matter. Aaliyah felt like one of your girlfriend’s calling to lament about potential suitors trying too hard and failing to be themselves. “Tryna be extra, extra, extra smoooooothhhh.”
Like an R&B lullaby, “It’s Whatever” soothes like a summer rain. Pure, romantic and angelic, the track encompasses everything that made Aaliyah the unforgettable, beautiful spirit we will always cherish.