Rodney Jerkins Reflects on Working With Aaliyah and Her Being the First Artist He Ever Worked With To Die

Aaliyah’s death has a lasting impact on not just her fans, but also the musical peers she left behind. With rumors of her music being available on streaming platforms soon, those who worked closely with her are excited for her legacy to continue. One producer who worked with the late singer is Rodney Jerkins. 

Aaliyah
Aaliyah | Roger Wong/Ovoworks/Ovoworks/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

In a new interview, Jerkins recalls his time working with Aaliyah and the impact of her death. He says Aaliyah is the first artist he’s ever produced for to pass away. 

Rodney Jerkins on working with Aaliyah and her being the first artist he’s worked with to die

Jerkins and Aaliyah worked together during her sophomore album, One In a Million. He was defining his famous “Darkchild” sound and Aaliyah was in transition from her work with R. Kelly.

During her sophomore album, her signature sound of R&B with hip hop beats was being developed by Timbaland and Missy Elliot.

For the album, Jerkins produced “One In a Million Remix” and another track, “Everything Is Going To Be Alright.” Of working with Aaliyah in the studio, Jerkins tells Vlad TV, “She was dope…we built a strong bond, a strong creative bond,” he recalls. “Aaliyah was a special talent for sure.”

Aaliyah
Aaliyah | Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

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Jerkins says Aaliyah’s death is unfortunate, noting that her death at an early age put an end to the greatness she was capable of achieving. “I feel like we really didn’t get a chance to see the best of the best of Aaliyah,” he says.

What Jerkins misses most about Aaliyah is her chill personality and her old soul. He says she was different from most talent he’d come across in Hollywood. Five years after their initial meeting, Aaliyah perished in a plane crash. Jerkins says Aaliyah is the first artist he worked closely with to die. 

“It was bad because I think that was the first time that I experienced an artist passing away that I worked with,” Jerkins says. “As a producer and creator, when you work with an artist, you’re still writing for that artist and you’re still thinking about when you’re going to work with them again. We had a great time working together and we knew we were going to work together again. We talked about it.”

A recap of Aaliyah’s tragic death

Aaliyah’s third full-length studio album was in full swing for promotion. She’d shot three music videos, one of which was shot in the Bahamas and filmed for both BET and MTV television specials.

According to witnesses, Aaliyah and her crew were scheduled to leave the island, but she chose to leave a day earlier. The pilot of the jet allegedly informed her and her crew that their luggage would cause issues with the plane as it was overloaded. The pilot allegedly suggested Aaliyah and her crew wait for a larger plane.

Aaliyah
Aaliyah | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

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Moments after takeoff, Aaliyah and all other passengers on the jet perished in a crash. It was later discovered that the pilot allegedly lied about the number of hours he’d driven a plane. There were also drugs found in the pilot’s system. An autopsy later revealed that Aaliyah had an underlying heart condition that sent her body into shock from the impact of the crash.

Aaliyah’s self-titled album shot to the top of the charts in the aftermath of her death. Her final appearance in the film Queen of the Damned was also released in theaters posthumously.