The late R&B legend’s catalog has been out of print for years, and it has never been available on major streaming services. Wednesday night, the 2005 posthumous collection, Ultimate, which features 25 of her top tracks, inexplicably appeared online for purchase. The tracks are not currently available on Spotify or Tidal.
The timing is incredibly suspicious. On Dec. 16, Complex published a feature, “The Inexplicable Online Absence of Aaliyahs’ Best Music,” that traced the complications with the singer’s catalog back to her uncle, Barry Hankerson, a mysterious music mogul who helped launch the careers of R. Kelly, Timbaland, and Missy Elliot. Hankerson owns the masters to Aaliyah’s two best albums, One in a Million and Aaliyah—on which he also served as executive producer—and for reasons that aren’t clear, he’s basically elected to squat on them. It’s a fascinating, tragic saga worth reading.
Complex notes that songs from those two Aaliyah albums appeared on iTunes in 2013, when they were illegally posted by Craze Digital, a music distribution company that did not own the rights to the tracks. The company was sued and the tracks were removed.
But as Pitchfork reports, “Craze Productions” is listed as the copyright holder on Apple Music and iTunes for Ultimate. The collection, however, was originally released via Blackground Records, the label Hankerson co-founded. Suffice to say, Ultimate might not be available for long.