Middle school, where anything Aaliyah normally got you at least a kiss. Or some cool points on those insanely detailed letters you wrote to a crush noting colors, song, location, etc. It was like Twitter before the social network boomed.

As a young man coming of age, my years between 1999 and 2002 were met with summers of awkward but incredibly original production from Timbaland, his best friend turned arguably most successful female emcee ever in Missy Elliott and the third member of hip-hop’s most ambidextrous trio, the lovely Ms. Haughton. When “Are You That Somebody” blared through numerous speakers and cars in the summer of 1999 to follow the Dr. Doolittle soundtrack, I noticed girls in a whole different light.

They wanted to dance yes, but this time in rhythm and a hell of a lot more seductively than just wobbling to whatever Cash Money had cooked up for the summer. It continued for a two year period, Timbo on the beat, Missy either rapping or laying down vocals and Aaliyah capturing the minds and hearts of young men and women across the country with a budding acting career and dance moves.

Not to mention she did have actual chops behind a microphone as a songbird.

When I started playing football my eighth grade year on pure whim, the news that Aaliyah had passed away in a plane crash on the 25th of August probably hit me harder than September 11th did. In tribute, the players drummed out “One In A Million” on their pads as we had down countless times at the lunch table. The remixes soon flowed of Aaliyah tributes and while the “I Miss You” remix featuring Jay-Z caught ears, Missy’s tribute hit harder, and breaks me down whenever I hear it.

A dual tribute for those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, “Take Away” while beautiful is one of those poignant songs I can’t even sit through in full because it brings up Aaliyah and that crash. A sad moment for fans of hers and more.

PREVIOUSLY: Day 3 – A Song That Makes You Happy