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How did Aaliyah Die? The Details Behind Aaliyah’s Death

several aaliyah records stacked on each other
Image from Shutterstock.

Though she released only three official albums across her seven-year career, Aaliyah cultivated a considerable fanbase. The incredibly talented singer was indeed an icon of her time. 

Who is Aaliyah? How did Aaliyah die? In this article, discover everything you need to know about the superstar and the details surrounding her tragic death.

How Did Aaliyah Die?

Sadly, Aaliyah died in a plane crash on August 25, 2001. 

She was aboard a small private plane in the Bahamas when the plane tragically crashed shortly after takeoff, ending her life and the lives of all those on board.

Aaliyah was filming the “Rock the Boat” music video before the crash. In an interview with the video director, Hype Williams, he recalled having fun and reminisced about how special it was to work on the project.

“Those four days were very beautiful for everyone,” he told MTV. “We all worked together as a family.”

According to Kathy Iandoloni’s book Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah, the singer heavily protested against boarding the small plane and refused to enter before the accident. The singer was so insistent on staying that she had her taxi waiting.

Just before takeoff, a member of her entourage gave her a drug to help her sleep and minutes later brought her unconscious body onboard. Witnesses observed the plane take off from the runway and climb for less than 100 feet before nose-diving and falling into a marsh just before the runway’s end.

The second Aaliyah’s plane crashed, the fuselage burst into flames, killing all aboard.

The plane crash was said to be caused by two factors: first, the plane was overloaded, and second, a pilot error by Luis Morales, who at the time wasn’t certified to fly the aircraft. 

According to the documents, two weeks before the incident, Morales was under probation for a crack cocaine possession charge. Notably, the autopsy revealed that he had traces of the substance in his system during the plane crash.

When Did Aaliyah Die?

Aaliyah died on August 25, 2001.

How Old Was Aaliyah When She Died?

The “Are You That Somebody” singer was only 22 when she got caught up in the fatal accident. 

Where Is Aaliyah Buried?

The iconic songstress was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in her hometown, New York. 

The cemetery also serves as a resting place for numerous music and film legends, including Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and John Lennon.

Related: How Did John Lennon Die?

Who Inherited Aaliyah’s Money?

At the time of her death in 2001, Aaliyah’s net worth was $8 million.

So where did her money go? Thankfully, the artist’s estate was said to have been owned by her mother, Diane Haughton, and her brother, Rashad. However, the rights to her music were a different story and created a dispute between the two parties.

Most of Aaliyah’s discography was owned by her uncle, Barry Hankerson, the founder of Background Records. He often butted heads with Aaliyah’s family about what to do with her music, including whether or not it should be available on streaming services. 

Twenty years after her death, in 2021, Aaliyah’s estate emerged victorious in the legal battles with Hankerson and finally got her music streamed.

aaliyah headshot. how did aaliyah die?
Image from Shutterstock.

What Were Aaliyah’s Last Words?

At the time of her death, Aaliyah was dating Damon Dash, who didn’t like the idea of Aaliyah flying to the Bahamas to film her music video. Dash had to travel back to New York, but right before he left Aaliyah for the island, he had a conversation with her.

Dash advised her against boarding the plane, as Aaliyah said she didn’t feel comfortable with it. However, she felt an obligation to travel to the Bahamas, and her last words to him were, “I gotta do it.”

Who Is Aaliyah?

Aaliyah, also known as Aaliyah Duna Haughton, was a famous American singer and actress. Widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern hip-hop, pop, and R&B, she’s best known for her distinctive sense of style, smooth vocals, and influence on music and fashion. 

Her life was tragically cut short at the age of 22, leaving an irreplaceable void that continues to echo through the music and entertainment industry. 

Related: 12 Musicians Who Died in Plane Crashes

When Was Aaliyah Born?

Aaliyah’s birthdate is on January 16, 1970. True to her nature, Alliyah’s zodiac sign is Capricorn, a sign known for its determination and disciplined nature, which reflects Aaliyah’s strong work ethic and commitment to her craft.

Where is Aaliyah From?

The multi-talented artist was born in Brooklyn, New York.

Aaliyah’s Ethnicity

Aaliyah was of African-American and Native American descent. 

How Tall Was Aaliyah?

Aaliyah’s height was 5 feet, 6 inches tall.

How Much Did Aaliyah Weigh?

Aaliyah weighed approximately 117 pounds.

How Did Aaliyah Become Famous?

Aaliayah’s career started at 12, thanks to the help of her uncle, a music industry executive. Through his connections, she secured her first record deal with Jive Records. 

In 1994, when she was only 14, Aaliyah released her debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, which catapulted her to stardom. 

The first single, “Back and Forth,” became a top-five hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and claimed the number one R&B song.

“I kept wondering if people would accept it. When it went gold, I had my answer, and it was just such an incredibly satisfying feeling,” she said.

Related: How Did Tupac Die?

Aaliyah’s Parents

Aaliyah’s close-knit family was very supportive in shaping and supporting her career throughout her life. 

Aaliyah’s mother was Diane Uaughton. A dancer and vocalist, she managed Aaliyah during her career. 

Michael Haughton, her father, was a transportation employee. Though not as prominently involved as her mother, he supported Aaliyah throughout her life.

Aaliyah’s Sibling

Fans probably know Aaliyah’s brother Rashad Haughton just as much as they know the singer. Rashad occasionally accompanied her to many red-carpet events and even recorded a song with her. 

After his sister’s tragic death, Rashad became involved in preserving her legacy. In 2018, he collaborated with the cosmetic company MAC to ensure they honored her properly.

aaliyah on the red carpet in white pants and a white top
Image from Shutterstock.

Who Was Aaliyah Dating?

At the time of her tragic passing, Aaliyah was dating Damon Dash, a producer and the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records. Damon Dash revealed their relationship only after the singer’s tragic death and claimed that the pair had plans to marry.

Aaliyah’s Tattoos 

Aaliyah had an incredible array of tattoos, each brimming with rich personal meaning and personality. 

The “Try Again” singer had four tattoos: the letter A for her first name, an Egyptian ankh, a music symbol, and a dove. 

Early Life

Music was in Aaliyah’s blood from an early age. She performed in churches and took voice lessons as a child.

She eventually joined the youth vocal competition Star Search, and despite not winning, she continuously worked hard, eventually earning her a spot with Gladys Knight, whom she performed with for five nights. One of her most remarkable feats during her early years was graduating with a 4.0 GPA from Detroit Performing Arts High School in 1997.


For Aaliyah, age was just a number. At just 14, she set her sights on the music industry, ready to make her mark and climb to the top. 

Perhaps the best of Aaliyah’s albums, her debut Age is Just A Number was a masterpiece. This proved that she was the real deal, earning her a ticket to the spotlight.

But she didn’t stop there. In 1996, she released her second album, One in a Million. This spawned some of her hits, including “If Your Girl Only Knew,” which went double platinum.

In 1998, Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” produced by Timbaland, earned her first Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

One of the most remarkable leaps in her career was her motion picture debut in Romeo Must Die. This was the first of Aaliyah’s movies; unsurprisingly, she did not disappoint.

The film was a box office hit and featured one of the greatest of Aaliyah’s songs, “Try Again,” which earned her another Grammy nomination.

Her success in Romeo Must Die opened more avenues for film roles, and she also starred in another movie, The Queen of the Damned, in 2002.

Aaliyah’s final, self-titled album was released in July 2001. It landed at number two on the US charts and sold more than 2.4 million albums globally. Pitchfork recently revisited the album and gave it an outstanding 9.3.

It was later revealed that Aaliyah had secured additional roles in films such as The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, Honey, and Sparkle. Unfortunately, her life was cut short, and she was never able to do any of these.

Was Aaliyah Still Married to R Kelly When She Died?

No. Six months after they were illegally married in August 1994, the marriage was annulled by Aaliyah’s parents.

How Old was Aaliyah When She Dated Jay-Z?

Before her tragic passing, Aaliyah was rumored to be dating Jay-Z. She was 20, and Jay Z was 29. Aaliyah denied these rumors.

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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