Artist News

Blackground Records owner comments on Aaliyah’s One In A Million finally arriving on streaming services

By | Published on Monday 23 August 2021


After Aaliyah‘s 1996 album ‘One In A Million’ finally arrived on the streaming services on Friday, her uncle – and the owner of the label that owns the rights in the record – posted a statement on Instagram this weekend.

Barry Hankerson’s Blackground Records announced earlier this month a new partnership with artist services firm Empire that would result in albums and soundtracks controlled by the label being reissued and distributed to all the digital platforms.

That announcement was most noteworthy, of course, because it included his late niece’s albums, most of which have never been officially available to stream.

It’s long been speculated as to why much of Aaliyah’s catalogue wasn’t on the digital services, with tensions between Hankerson and his sister Diane Haughton, who oversees her daughter’s estate, often blamed.

In a recent interview with Billboard, Hankerson said: “Since the death of my niece, I don’t have the same relationship I used to have with my sister”. But, he added, “there was a conversation we had that she didn’t want the music out, and whatever my sister told me, I tried to do what she wanted me to do”.

Shortly after Blackground Records announced its Empire deal, the singer’s estate issued a statement that seemed to imply there were still tensions between the label and the estate, and by association Hankerson and his sister.

That statement read: “Protecting Aaliyah’s legacy is and will always be our focus. For 20 years, we have battled behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception with unauthorised projects targeted to tarnish. We have always been confused as to why there is such a tenacity in causing more pain alongside what we already have to cope with for the rest of our lives”.

However, the estate didn’t outright say that it intended to block the newly announced plans to make Aaliyah’s albums available to stream, adding: “Now, in this 20th year [since Aaliyah’s death], this unscrupulous endeavour to release Aaliyah’s music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate compels our hearts to express a word – forgiveness”.

In a seemingly diplomatic Instagram post on Saturday, Hankerson specifically thanked his sister and her late husband Michael Haughton – as well Aaliyah’s cousin Jomo Hankerson – all of whom played a role in managing her career. He also sought to clarify his own role in relation to Aaliyah’s business affairs.

“As the owner of Aaliyah’s catalogue and label Blackground Records, I want to thank you all for allowing ‘One In A Million’ to chart number three in the world”, he wrote. “I can not take the credit for managing Aaliyah as that was never a title I held. That title belonged to Diane Haughton and her husband, who managed Aaliyah from the start of her career until her passing”.

“I want to thank Diane, Aaliyah’s manager, for allowing and choosing Blackground Records to become her label”, he added. “I want to thank Jomo Hankerson for being an integral part of the whole process. We created a signature sound, images, and visuals that will live forever. After 25 years, we are still charting high numbers”.

He concluded: “Thank you to all of her many fans for keeping her music alive. I’m sorry it took so long, but when you lose a family member so unexpectedly, it takes time to deal with that type of grief. I decided to release Aaliyah’s music in order to keep her legacy alive”.