Everything To Know About Aaliyah’s Upcoming Catalog Release

Robyn Mowatt Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer where she…
Aaliyah
Photo Credit: Chris Walter for WireImage

An extensive Billboard profile centering Aaliyah’s former manager and his issues with the late singer’s estate has provided some details surrounding the looming catalog release.

Aaliyah’s music will be available later this month despite the public disarray that’s been happening between her former manager/uncle Barry Hankerson, and her estate ran by her mother, Diane Haughton. 

On Thursday, a lengthy Billboard profile centering Hankerson, his past business woes, and the new partnership he successfully inked with EMPIRE, an independent music company, hit the Internet. The partnership, which is now public, declares EMPIRE as the distributor for the highly anticipated catalog of the Detroit-raised singer. Also announced today is the relaunch of Hankerson’s Blackground label, which is where Aaliyah’s masters reside. The label was also home to acts including Timbaland, Tank, Jojo, and Toni Braxton. The catalogs of these artists will also be available later this year. 

Not all hearts and minds are clear even with this tremendous news. Aaliyah’s estate is still working to gain access to her recording contracts, which they’ve made clear have never been available to them. An attorney representing the estate declared for 20 years that Blackground has not provided these documents. 

Regardless, the constant back and forth between Hankerson and the estate has diminished light on the shining star that captured fans and audiences before her untimely death. The rollout, courtesy of EMPIRE, begins on August 20, 2021 with One in a Million; the rest of the scheduling is slated to release as follows: Romeo Must Die Soundtrack on September 3, then her self-titled album on September 10. In addition to those releases, “Are You That Somebody,” I Care 4 U + Ultimate Aaliyah will become accessible on October 8.

Below we’re sharing everything worth knowing about the ongoing battle between Aaliyah’s estate and Barry Hankerson, the founder of Blackground.

Barry Hankerson, Aaliyah’s Uncle/Former Manager Alleged He Had a Conversation With Her Mother Over The Late Singer’s Catalog 

In the extensive Billboard profile, Hankerson alleged that, following Aaliyah’s death, her mother stated she didn’t wish for her late daughter’s music to be released. This claim is currently under dispute. On the conversation, Hankerson shared: “As a parent, I would understand if she did not want the music out. Because who wants to hear the voice of your daughter who’s gone? So when she said that to me, I said, ‘OK, we’re not putting it out. I don’t know when, but one day we will.’ We literally packed everything up and went on to something else.”

Hankerson also added he had hoped over the years that the estate and Haughton’s “tenor of the conversation would change.” Aaliyah’s catalog has sat untouched for nearly two decades. He has not spoken with his sister since the news broke that her catalog was slated to be released. Instead, he’s gone through representatives.

EMPIRE, an independent Bay Area-based music company, and Hankerson, will partner and make the entire Blackground catalog available. Releases from Aaliyah, Timbaland, Tank, Toni Braxton, and Jojo will be available to stream. Digital and physical copies of these albums will also be released. 

Aaliyah’s Copywriting Is Reportedly Being Administered By Blackground Through Kobalt

Since Blackground owns the masters to Aaliyah’s recordings, the estate has no say in the songs’ publishing copyrights. Last August when the estate shared a statement that it was working to release her music, they reached out to Blackground and shared there was a “desire to be involved in the process of finding a distributor,” per Billboard. Then, the estate said they were later informed the EMPIRE deal was finalized and their input wasn’t taken into consideration. Blackground alleges Hankerson made “several attempts” to reach out to the estate to share his plans but he was met with “silence.”

Aaliyah’s Estate Has Never Been Against The Release of Her Catalog

On Wednesday, Aaliyah’s estate released a lengthy statement sharing that for 20 years they’ve “battled behind the scenes” and have endured “shadowy tactics of deception.” The statement also noted they are working diligently to protect the late singer’s “brand, legacy, and intellectual property.” But beyond these points, the Billboard profile makes it clear that the estate has always been ready to share her music with her global fanbase. 

A statement from an attorney for the estate said Blackground has “failed to account to the estate with any regularity in accordance with her recording contracts.” It also reads, “the estate was not made aware of the impending release of the catalog until after the deal was complete and plans were in place.”

In addition to these sentiments, the estate is tasking Blackground with providing a full account of its past earnings and “full disclosure of the terms of its new deal to distribute Aaliyah’s long embargoed music.”

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