On Wednesday (Aug. 25), fans of Aaliyah celebrated her legacy and the 20-year anniversary of the R&B singer’s untimely passing in an airplane crash by listening to her recently rereleased music. However, for Dame Dash, her boyfriend at the time of her death, the memory of the star affectionately known as “Baby Girl” lives on forever.
“There hasn’t been one day since she’s passed, not one, in 20 years, that I haven’t heard her name, heard her record, or seen a picture of her. Every single day she’s present in my life and I feel lucky for that,” the Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder told Entertainment Tonight in a new interview.
The 50-year-old entrepreneur opened up to Entertainment Tonight‘s Kevin Frazier about his relationship with the One In a Million artist, his thoughts on R. Kelly, Aaliyah’s long-standing legacy and impact on music, and why her death caused a rift between himself and music video director Hype Williams.
His Beef With Hype Williams
Dash described flying to Miami to spend time with Aaliyah while she filmed the video for “Rock the Boat.” From there, the crew would then travel to The Bahamas to continue the shoot, which Williams was directing.
“When she actually saw the plane…She said, ‘I don’t like this plane.’ I was like, ‘Well, don’t get on it.’ She was like, ‘Well, I got to because I got work to do,'” recalled Dash. “She got on the plane and she always had a very serious fear of planes in general, so she had to overcome a fear to get on that plane on the way there.”
He went on to explain his point of contention with the famed director, a former friend who Dash had frequently collaborated with on music videos such as Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin'” and “Hey Papi”: “But what I was really more tight about was that I had heard that Lenny Kravitz had offered her a jet and that Hype had took the jet. So, that’s what really pissed me off about the situation when I heard about that.”
When asked if he had addressed the issue with Williams, Dash quickly replied, “F**k yea.” However, when probed to elaborate on the conversation, he declined, saying, “Ask him…Because of my respect for Aaliyah and her family…Everyone’s respectful of her memory. No one really speaks on it…So in respect for her memory, I don’t say a lot of things.”
His Take On R. Kelly
Regrading Aaliyah’s highly publicized and controversial marriage to Kelly when she was just 15 years old while Kelly was 27, Dash said that they spoke about it “lightly” and he helped her to overcome the trauma.
“We talked about it up to the point that it hurt and then she said, ‘I don’t wanna talk about it no more,'” he recalled of the relationship between the two who collaborated on Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, which Kelly produced.
In response to Kelly’s federal trial for racketeering and sex trafficking charges, Dash said, “I was just shocked at how long he got away with it, how many people turned and looked the other way, how many people were still, you know, involved with him in any kinda way knowing all those things.”
The Thug And The R&B Princess
“Our intention at first wasn’t even to be in love. We were just really good friends and we fell for real. It was almost an accident,” Dash confessed of their unlikely love story.
Certain the two would have someday wed, he explained that his romance with the “I Care For You” singer taught him how to love for the first time. “I didn’t know what being in love was. I didn’t even understand what that feeling is and was able to really achieve that with her, so now I know what it feels like, so I was able to identify it when it happened again.”
The record exec shared how this new understanding redefined his overall approach to life. “And after she passed, it changed my whole life because I would only do what I love!” he said. “I would only be around ppl I love! That became the only currency I cared about, is how I felt.”
“It’s almost amazing to me that I’m the guy who was with Aaliyah” admitted the State Property star. “I’m almost a fan of myself…Who’s that guy? Who coulda be that cool to be with Aaliyah? Like, who coulda actually been with Aaliyah? Me! And that’s crazy!”
“The trajectory of the world would’ve been a lot different had she been on this planet…because she was an opinion leader. She was one of those people that if she did something first everyone followed suit…The trajectory of the world woulda been a lot different because she was a forward thinker,” gushed Dash of his late love, who was just 22 years old at the time of her death.
When asked what people should remember about Aaliyah, Dash responded, “Great music, swag, coolness!” simply stating, “She was the coolest.”
Watch the full Entertainment Tonight interview with Damon Dash below: