Throwback Thursday: These 6 Debuts Changed Music Forever

Twenty years ago Biggie, Outkast, Nas, the Fugees, Brandy and Aaliyah led a revival of hip-hop and R&B.

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Aaliyah-AgeAintNothing
Age Ain't Nothing but a Number; Aaliyah in 2000

Jive/Blackground Records; Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images 

Working with mentor and producer R. Kelly, the then-15-year-old’s sultry vocals worked perfectly with Kelly’s new jack swing. Aaliyah's style, which she described as “street but sweet,” can be heard in several R&B descendants from Destiny’s Child to Ciara to Rihanna. Her untimely death in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22 cut short what was a promising career. One unfortunate legacy of the album is that this may have been the first hint that Kelly had an issue with young girls.

6. Brandy, Brandy

Brandy-Brandy

Brandy; Brandy in 2013

Atlantic Records; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

If Mary J. Blige is the queen of hip-hop soul, then Brandy was surely its princess. Like Aaliyah, Brandy was 15 years old when she released her debut, which mixed elements of hip-hop and soul but with more of a softer pop feel. Brandy was also a pioneer in crossing over successfully into TV and movies—she was TV’s Moesha for six seasons. Over the course of her singing career, she earned the nickname the “Vocal Bible.” Many R&B singers, including Rihanna and Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, have cited Brandy as an influence. Even neo-soul high priestess Erykah Badu tweeted that Brandy’s album was an influence when she wrote her 1997 debut album, Baduizm.

Genetta M. Adams is a contributing editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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