KIDADA JONES, aaliyah's best friend:
Me and Aaliyah met at a Tommy Hilfiger fashion show that I styled in about ’93. She had really small feet and so did I and she didn’t have shoes for the show so I remember loaning her my shoes. Then we met again on the Tommy Hilfiger photo shoot when we were both in the ad.
You know when the dogs are at the dog park and they run up to each other and their tails wag and they smell each other? It was just easy. As soon as we met we just started talking and that was it. We were like four or five years apart. We were into fashion, music, boys, pop culture. Sense of humor, that’s what I would say was our common ground. We used to do prank call after prank call. Once we pranked my dad [Quincy Jones] and she acted like she was Christina Aguilera. She was asking my dad to do something on her record and she was just singing, and he totally believed it was her. When he was like, What number can I call you back at? she gave him my home number. He still didn’t realize that it was us! I called him right after and he goes, Christina Aguilera just called me, but then he looked up the number and he figured it out. ”Her mom allowed me to be her guardian for a little bit. I was a few years older so when she went to Europe, I was the guardian—which was a complete and total nightmare. I’ll keep it mild, but it was just young fun and maybe I didn’t really understand the boundaries. We got in trouble quite a few times, but she was the funnest friend. A lot of friends have quarrels, and maybe we had a couple disagreements, but our friendship was based on going out and having a great time. We ate breakfast late at night. We got our nails done a lot. We shopped a lot—when no one even knew what Kitson was, we would be there all the time. We spent a lot of time getting matching outfits and clothes. We had boyfriends at the same time, so we would get them the same presents. We even vacationed together, we went to Fiji.
We did a lot of making up dances. We had one to “Too Close” by Next—that was our JAM! When we would go to the club we would dance together like those two girls in House Party. We did it all the time! Every time we got to a dancing place we’d end up doing the House Party dance. Right in the middle of the party! I mean, we didn’t even care! People just thought we were stupid.
I think about her all the time. She was so sweet. She just left like a sweet coating over everything. Anytime she’s brought up or her music comes on the radio, it’s sweet, but it definitely sounds like she found a niche before it was here. If you listen to her music it’s so relevant today, but we had it so long ago.
There was an edgier side to her that people didn’t know. She was more forward thinking than most people. Deeper. She was fine spending time alone. She was a thinker. A little risky in fashion, she was trendsetting. We were in the process of starting a girl’s clothing line, it was called Dolly Pop. Right when she passed we were getting ready to sign our contracts for that. We were making plans for this brand that was gonna be girly and cute and have Japanese inspiration. This was seven or eight years ago, so the whole Japanese inspiration wasn’t at the forefront.
Her instinct was definitely forward and a little brave. She was a risk-taker. She absolutely pioneered the whole falsetto over a heartbeat, and the whole feminine-meets-tomboy mysterious dance routine. That’s her. She very much paved that way for girls. And then you see those girls go from girl to woman. From her first video to her last video, you see Aaliyah go from teenage girl to woman. She evolved at a really nice pace.”
MISSY ELLIOT, producer and close friend.
Me and Timbaland flew to Detroit. They was testing us out to see if we could make a hit record for Aaliyah, because she was coming off the project for R Kelly and I guess they wanted to try some new producers. We was kinda nervous because we hadn’t done records for any artists of that caliber, but when we first met her, she treated us like she knew us for years, like we grew up with her. She was always very sweet, always smiling and she made us feel like we was big producers when we didn’t have no record out. Even coming off a big album, she never once treated us like we were beneath her.
Me and Tim, our sound was so far left that it was kinda hard for people. They liked it, but they didn’t know if they really liked it, because it was so different from everything else on the radio. But the weird thing was, as soon as we did “One in a Million,” she immediately thought it was a hit. We didn’t have to convince her, she was like, I’m telling you, this is hot. I knew then there was a chemistry. She wasn’t close-minded. She was an artist that got it.
After that, we became family. She was my little sister and Tim was my brother. And we became the Supafriends! We felt like we was gonna save the world. We was gonna change music every chance that we got. We felt like we was gonna always be family. Forever.
I think when “If Your Girl Only Knew” first came out, people kinda said, Oh, she got a new sound. But then when “One in a Million” came out, the beat and the melody were so different from anything. I was in a club one night, the DJ took it back TEN TIMES, no lie. And this was in the middle of him playing, like, Biggie records and Tupac records, and here goes “One in a Million” in the middle of all this street rap! That’s when I said, OK, this is something different—we are going somewhere else, we are kind of switching the sound.
Sometimes when I’m talking to Ciara, we’ll bring Aaliyah into the conversation. I know that she would be somewhere in outerspace at this moment, because she grabbed onto the same mentality that we had: be risky. We always said we don’t want somebody else to do it before we do it, so let’s just take it there. How do you know if people are gonna like it or not if you don’t at least try it?
With the sunglasses, I think it was just persona. I mean, she was always a star, but when people can’t see your eyes, they really don’t know how you looking. Your eyes tell a lot, and by her covering them, they really never knew what her personality was. I think once she took the sunglasses off and got into her girl clothes, it was like, Wow, she’s grown. I think people started to feel like they knew her.
Even though she had the big baggy pants on, there was still like a sex appeal. She was like that round the way girl, cause at that time, you had a lot of females dressing in baggy clothes. She kind of related to the regular chicks but at the same time she had a sex appeal to her, so I think it translated. It was a mystique and it gave her room to keep growing each album.
I still get guys that are like, I used to love me some Aaliyah, or, I got her on my screensaver. I think every guy had a crush on Aaliyah. If a guy tried to approach her, she was always nice, but you know, it wasn’t like, OK, I’m gonna call you in an hour! But she was always like, Thank you so much, and that was that. She was very focused on her music and her family, so I don’t think she really took to anything they said, until her third album, when she was like, OK, I’m grown now. Maybe I’ll give you a call.
Right before she did Queen of the Damned, she came to my hotel and she had these huge gold teeth from one of those comedy stores. I kept begging her to do the lines, and she was doin them with these big teeth that was sticking out of her mouth. And we just laughed and laughed and laughed, over and over again. That was my last, greatest memory because, like, she’s a clown! She liked to have fun.
I was in Jamaica when I found out she passed. Somebody called me, but there were so many different rumors on other artists like Luther [Vandross] and Whitney [Houston] at the time that I really cursed another artist out cause I thought they were playin. People were calling cause they thought me and Tim was with her. Then when they started saying this person was with her and this person and this person, I kept hanging up on people. But when I called Tim I could tell something was wrong.
It’s like losing a family member. It’s not like Aaliyah the superstar, the celebrity. It’s like my little sister. You feel empty, you feel in shock, you feel angry. That’s a feeling I can’t even really explain.
Most people look at her as an angel. That’s what she was. I’m not saying that because people feel like they have to say great things because somebody passed away. It is what it is. She was a sweet person with great, incredible talent who didn’t compromise who she was for the world. It was like: I’m gonna be a trendsetter, I’m gonna be an icon, even when I’m gone, you gonna always remember me.