Contemporary R&B singer Aaliyah (born Aaliyah Haughton) became an overnight sensation in 1994 with her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, and its two hit singles, "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)." Born in Brooklyn but raised in Detroit, she was influenced by an entertainment background -- her mother was a singer, her uncle an entertainment lawyer once married to Gladys Knight. She appeared in concert with Knight at the age of 11, and released her first album just four years later. Paced by the Top Ten hits "Back & Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)" (the latter an Isley Brothers cover), 1994's Age Ain't Nothing But a Number became a multi-platinum smash. She endured controversy near the end of the year, however, when news broke of her marriage at the age of 15 to her producer, R. Kelly.
After severing her ties with Kelly, Aaliyah resurfaced in 1996 with her second album, One in a Million. Collaborating with rising production stars Timbaland and Missy Misdemeanor Elliott, Aaliyah pointed the way for the minimalist hip-hop of the late '90s with hits like "One in a Million" and "If Your Girl Only Knew." By the end of the decade, she'd made the move to film, starring in Romeo Must Die with Jet Li and agreeing to appear in the projected pair of sequels to The Matrix. Just one month after her self-titled third album appeared in 2001, though, she died in a private-plane crash while returning from a video shoot in the Bahamas. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide