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Aaliyah attends Urban Aid 4 (for) Lifebeat concert.

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If you look back (or forth!) at the past three decades in pop music, particularly the leading area of female R&B, there’s possibly not a bigger influence on the game quite like what was left behind prematurely by the late Aaliyah Dana Haughton.

At just 15 years old, born a few weeks into 1979 in the borough of Brooklyn on January 16, the single-named songbird embarked on a Cinderella story of sorts when her debut single, “Back & Forth,” was officially released 30 years ago today on April 8, 1994.



RELATED: 10 Aaliyah Songs That Prove She’s An R&B Legend

Soon followed would be Billboard-topping success: the song hit #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart just over a month after its release, remaining there for three consecutive weeks. On the wider scale Hot 100 chart, “Back & Forth” managed to crack the top 5 and eventually was certified gold before summer ’94 would even begin.

Unfortunately, Aaliyah would soon be faced with a brief career-halting controversy when rumors began swirling that she was romantically involved with her mentor, R. Kelly. Knowing what we now know to be true, it’s a shame the momentum for that first project — the ill-titled Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number — came to a close due to the predatory advancements of a music industry Svengali.

Still, she managed to come back strong in 1996 with what some might consider to be one of the most influential albums of 1990s R&B: the game-changing One In A Million, where the rise of Timbaland and Missy Elliott was first witnessed on a commercial level.



With more irony than could be described, another young singer of the same age by the name of Brandy followed suit in September 1994 with her debut single, “I Wanna Be Down.” Then, almost one year later to the day of Aaliyah’s debut on April 7, 1995, another teen queen would step up to the plate by the name of Monica by dropping her beautiful and vocally bold lead single, “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days),” leading to a debut album released later that summer titled Miss Thang. Aaliyah on the other hand spent most of ’95 touring overseas to lessen the blowback from a leaked marriage license and even bigger rumors of an alleged teen pregnancy that proved to be false.




In the years that followed came Mya in 1998 with “It’s All About Me,” which dropped a few months prior to the era-defining ‘Timbaliyah’ collab of the ’90s, “Are You That Somebody?” After that, then-rising rap sensation Ja Rule would introduce Christina Milian in summer 2000 (“Between Me and You”) as Aaliyah topped the chart in the biggest way with her sole number 1 single (“Try Again”). Later, Ja did it again with Ashanti in November 2001 (“Always on Time”) following the tragic death of Aaliyah three months prior on August 25.





With acts like Tweet and Amerie that followed in 2002, Aaliyah’s musical spirit still emanated by way of their soft singing styles over hard hip-hop production and the occasional eye-covering side swoops. Later we saw it in Beyoncé’s seamless rise from Destiny’s Child into a triple threat solo career in 2003 with “Crazy in Love,” then Ciara’s introduction as a by-the-book hybrid of both Aaliyah and still-reigning pop queen Janet Jackson in 2004 with “Goodies.” Rihanna’s rise in 2005 with “Pon de Replay” was followed up by an even wider Aaliyah influence that can be seen throughout the many phases in her 15-year-and-counting reign on top. Cassie combed out her best swoop bang for the cover of her 2006 debut single, “Me & U,” and even Keri Hilson stepped up to the plate in 2007 as Timbaland’s latest protegeé on their chart-topping collab, “The Way I Are.” That would lead to her 2008 debut single, “Energy,” and 2009 debut album, In A Perfect World…









Looking at Aaliyah’s influence on contemporaries and immediate successors during the 2000s mentioned above is surely saying something, but then it surprisingly continued well into the 2010s.

Jhené Aiko’s 2011 breakout mixtape, Sailing Soul(s), led to later success with her 2014 debut single, “The Worst.” Tinashe’s very similar rise in 2012 with her mixtape, In Case We Die, gave way to breakout success in 2014 with her debut single, “2 On.”

Similarly, Kehani would follow-suit after building mixtape momentum with Cloud 19 in 2014 and You Should Be Here in 2015 to drop her 2017 debut album, SweetSexySavage, sampling Aaliyah twice on LP standouts “Personal” (see: “Come Over”) and “Too Much” (see: “More Than A Woman”).

Each of those ladies went through the intimidating task of being deem “the next Aaliyah” — whether they embraced it or not! (see below) — but it really wasn’t that hard to see why.




The epic takeover of SZA in 2017 with her debut album, Ctrl, had Aaliyah written all over it, from the “We Need A Resolution”-inspired single “Love Galore” — trade out Timbaland for Travis Scott! — to her borrowed Tommy Hilfiger overalls aesthetic that resulted in a whole campaign released last year.

Sevyn Streeter’s debut in 2017 with Girl Disrupted was almost a love letter to Aaliyah, most prominently with the beautiful ballad “Before I Do” that Sevyn herself has stated is influenced from top to bottom by Baby Girl’s 1994 R&B classic, “At Your Best (You Are Love).”

As Fifth Harmony breakout Normani still finds her footing since going solo in 2018, it appears she may also  join those ranks after the reaction to her 2021 viral hit, “Blind Side,” which sounds so similar to “One In A Million” production-wise that it could easily be considered a sample.





Now, it’s South African superstar Tyla who’s the latest of Aaliyah’s musical daughters following her debut last year with the GRAMMY-winning single, “Water,” and her 2024 debut album that comes self-titled just like her heavenly idol’s final offering. She actually told Genius last year (see below) that the metaphorical suggestiveness of lyrics like “Make me sweat / Make me hotter / Make me lose my breath / Make me water”  are directly borrowed from the book of “Rock the boat / Work the middle / Change positions / Stroke it, baby.”



So you see, when people refer to Aaliyah as the Princess of R&B or Queen of Urban Pop, the proof is quite definitely in the decades-old pudding. We just wish she was still here to see the shining legacy that’s been soaring thus far.

Rest in peace always to the one who started it all. We celebrate you on the 30th anniversary of your debut and will continue to forever on. And on and on.




Take a look below at what many fans of Baby Girl are saying about “Back & Forth” that has Aaliyah trending heavily on social media today:



The post The One That Started It All: Why Aaliyah’s “Back & Forth” Debut Deserves Respect 30 Years Later appeared first on Black America Web.

The One That Started It All: Why Aaliyah’s “Back & Forth” Debut Deserves Respect 30 Years Later  was originally published on

1. 3⃣0⃣ Years Ago Back & Forth | 1994 Aaliyah

via @xacct01

2. 30 years ago Aaliyah Released her debut single ‘Back & Forth’. – #5 Billboard Hot 100 – #6 UK Dance singles – #1 Billboard Hot R&B/ Hiphop songs – #10 Japan – #16 UK singles – #38 Netherland top 100 – RIAA Gold 💽 – 82M spotify streams

via @aaliyahcharts

3. 10 aaliyah songs i have on repeat 🔂


4. Nostalgia always grips me with Aaliyah, because I’m forever curious about how her beauty, movie and fashion profile would’ve grown had she got to really live out the 2000s maximising on those seeds that were being sowed across all mediums

via @iamntyrell

5. Today marks the 30th Anniversary of AALIYAH. Such an amazing, talented, respected and beautiful human being she was . The biggest and most precious gift that music gave us. Thank you for inspirinng the world 30 years later. We LOVE and adore you baby girl ❤️✨

via @Aaliyah_Spain

6. Aaliyah should be here to celebrate her debut 30th anniversary!

via @AaliyahLegion

7. Oh Aaliyah, although you’re gone influence will never die

via @thegoldeneri

8. 🥇#1 Billboard Hot R&B/HipHop

via @D_LatinSuperFly

9. Went Diamond in my house!

via @VampireNovelFan

10. Aaliyahs records had a lot of impact to the point people started running to her producers, it redefined r&b, paved the way for experimental/alt r&b, inspired Brandy’s whole nsn album and paved the way for solo teen acts in the 90s since her debut at age 15!!!

via @diamond1zz