You might be aware that on Sunday, Drake posted a new song featuring his own vocals over a previously unreleased Aaliyah recording, with production by the Canadian rapper-singer’s usual partner Noah “40” Shebib. He also gave an interview where he said, “It’s all off of an Aaliyah project that me and 40 are commanding … To get 13-14 new Aaliyah songs … everybody should be excited.” On Monday, however, the late singer’s brother Rashaud Haughton threw cold water on the idea, saying in a Facebook post that “there is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family.”
Not Aaliyah’s immediate family, perhaps, but another relative has confirmed the project is underway. Jomo Hankerson, Aaliyah’s cousin and the co-head of the late singer’s Blackground label imprint, told Billboard.biz the project is happening, that the label wants to put it out before 2013, and that “contemporary artists” will be involved in helping reshape 16 unreleased songs and “fragments” from the Aaliyah vaults. Drake and 40 will indeed co-executive produce the album with Hankerson and his father, he reportedly said. Missy Elliott and Timbaland, who worked with Aaliyah while she was alive, will also be “involved,” Hankerson is quoted as saying, though he acknowledges that much “is up in the air.”
Got all that? An album of posthumous Aaliyah music is happening, with a hopeful release date this year, Drake and 40 are indeed playing a key role, and Timbaland and Missy Elliott should be on the record, too. Timbaland declined to comment to Billboard, though, and Missy didn’t respond prior to deadline, so we’re still a long way from a full picture of what form a posthumous Aaliyah album will take. (Timbaland previously indicated to New York’s Power 105.1 that he wanted to be included in the effort.)
Aggrieved Aaliyah fans might be right, and this could turn out to be the schlockiest act of musical grave robbery since Natalie Cole’s genre-inventing track that shares a title with Drake’s Aaliyah-sampling “Unforgettable.” Drake’s Take Care made SPIN’s list of the top R&B albums of last year, but we’ll save our praise — and our potential outrage — until after harder details emerge. Drake’s motto might be YOLO, but any James Bond aficionado (or any person who follows the fate of talented singers cut down before their time) knows You Only Live Twice.