Normani’s single “Wild Side” recently dropped, attracting attention with its prominent sample of Aaliyah’s hit song “One in a Million.” But the late singer’s uncle said this week that Normani wasn’t granted permission to sample the song.
Barry Hankerson, Aaliyah’s uncle and owner of her master recordings, told TMZ that it would have been “more honorable” if Normani had requested clearance for “One in a Million.” Nevertheless, he said Aaliyah would have been “pleased” to see her legacy kept alive.
“I will not stand in the way of something that brings to light the incredible staying power of Aaliyah,” he said. “So in that light, wishing Normani well with the song and overall career. God bless. I think Aaliyah would be pleased.”
Hankerson, who founded Blackground Records to launch his niece’s music, added that Aaliyah “always encouraged young women pursuing their musical and entertainment careers to achieve their dreams.”
“I believe that Aaliyah would be very supportive of a young Black woman that chose to emulate her music and style,” he said.
A Blackground attorney verified with TMZ that authorization to use the sample was never given, while Normani’s team asserted that “Wild Side” does not actually use a direct sample of the song.
Meanwhile, Normani seemed to invalidate her team’s claims when replying to a tweet about Timbaland, who produced “One in a Million.” After Timbaland tweeted in support of her single, she replied, “I must’ve died when I seen this.”
Digital access to Aaliyah’s music has long been restricted, to the great frustration of her fans. Her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number,” is available on primary streaming services, but the singer’s estate has held back most of her remaining catalog, including her 1996 follow-up, “One in a Million,” and her 2001 self-titled album. Aaliyah died in an airplane accident in 2001, when she was 22 years old.
Aaliyah’s estate took to social media on Jan. 16 for its latest update on the matter, on what would’ve been the performer’s 42nd birthday.
“We hear you and we see you. While we share your sentiments and desire to have Aaliyah’s music released, we must acknowledge that these matters are not within our control and, unfortunately, take time,” Aaliyah’s estate wrote. “Our inability to share Aaliyah’s music and artistry with the world has been as difficult for us as it has been for all of you. Our priority has always been and will continue to be Aaliyah’s music.”