I first met Aaliyah when she was 19, when I got a job singing background vocals for Ginuwine. Aaliyah came to one of the rehearsals and she watched us for like 30 minutes. After that, we got a call saying Aaliyah wanted her background singers to sound like us. Soon after that we got the call saying, “Tank you need a job, and you’re hired.”
It was crazy to see the Aaliyah I knew behind closed doors and then the Aaliyah that got on stage and put the shades on. [Offstage] she seemed like a fun teenager, not even thinking about the fact that she was this big superstar that just sold two million records. You would never be able to tell by the way she and her friends ran around giggling and cracking jokes. In practice she’d always be trying to figure out what games we could play, like, Let’s play tag! Then all of a sudden it was showtime and it just clicked on.
Aaliyah’s interaction with her dancers and the way she slid in and out of the choreography was very smooth. Somehow she was just dancing and then the next minute she was on the speakers. When I was with her at the Hot 97 Summer Jam in New York, there must have been 15 dancers on stage, explosions, confetti. It was the biggest thing I’d seen in a long time and she was at the center of it, controlling. That show right there, it was like, Yeah I’m a singer, but I want to be a performer.
She was really adamant about developing the power in her voice. She was like, I like singing pretty, and I like having the angelic voice, but I want to sing harder. I want to sing from the soul. With singing, it’s not totally about what you can do, it’s about being able to see where to put these things. Aaliyah could do all the runs, but to be like an artist painting, to know where to put the tree, it takes a little more imagination. Her confidence was everything. She was like, I’m a woman and I’m Aaliyah, I can try it if I want to.
Tank is an R&B singer and songwriter.
The word in the hood was, she had a cockeye. Cause she always wear them shades, yahmean? But the next album came out and it was like, Whoa, she killin it on some real warrior shit. I didn’t see anyone doing what she did. I mean, Britney Spears tried but I laughed at that fuckin video. It was hilarious, yo. I liked that song Britney bit, where Aaliyah had the snake [“We Need a Resolution”]. It was deep.
[As far as rappers go] she was our pop princess. To be associated with R Kelly in any way at that point in time, that was street credibility. Some people just have that “it” factor, where it doesn’t matter where they’re at, they appeal to both sides. White kids adored her; that’s a hard bridge to cross right there, man, but she had a lot of talent. And when you meet the girl there’s a level of comfortability I can’t even describe. Her and a friend of mine were best friends, so we used to hang out. We went to Universal Studios [to a photo booth], you know those little corny sticker pictures? We used to go do stuff like that. I remember watching a home movie of her and her friends portraying the Spice Girls, that was kinda kooky. It was like being around your little sister. It wasn’t Aaliyah the big superstar. It was just Baby Girl.
I’ve always said that a comedian ain’t funny to me if he try too hard to be funny. Same shit with sexy. Aaliyah didn’t have to try hard. She was a total package as far as singing, dancing and entertaining. She was killin all that, and it was a relief to find out she actually ain’t cockeyed. And her moms was mad peace but very stern, remind me of my bougie aunts and shit. Not bougie in a bad way, but you know, Nigga I ain’t havin it.
The best way that I can describe Aaliyah is this analogy here: being around Biggie so much when I did the song with him, actually hanging out with him, it get to a point where you don’t see a big, fat, greasy black muhfucka. It get to a point where you forget the nigga fat. It’s just something else. The heart and charisma, man. That’s the best way to describe it. You just forget that the person does what they do or you know, they sold like X amount of records or they just won this many awards and Soul Training and the next day y’all just chillin at fucking Fat Burger or some shit like that.
Method Man is a rapper and actor.