The year 1996 was arguably the hottest in the ’90s for black popular culture.
Tupac released his classic album All Eyez on Me, and just months later, he was gunned down in Las Vegas. Jay Z dropped Reasonable Doubt, launching a career that would see him rise from a street hustler to “a business, man.” Moesha debuted on network television, with Brandy Norwood giving us #BlackGirlMagic before we even knew it existed.
And Aaliyah released her second studio album, One in a Million—one of dozens of breakthrough albums to be released that year, including those from the Fugees, Outkast and Lil' Kim.
In honor of this epic year in music, TV and film, The Root is doing a Where Are They Now? series focused on the year 1996, beginning with the Princess of R&B’s sophomore album so we can catch up with some of the biggest power players and cultural influencers from that year. Stay tuned to see what your favorite celebrities from the ’90s have been up to.
Aaliyah’s star was on the rise in 1996. Known for her sultry vocals and tomboy-with-a-side-of-sexy style, Aaliyah solidified her place among chart-topping R&B singers of the mid-to-late ’90s with the release of her second studio album, One in a Million. With Missy Elliott and Timbaland, then up-and-coming producers from Virginia, One in a Million introduced a new sound to the world of R&B. The album sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. Aaliyah definitely stood out among her peers. “I stay true to myself and my style, and I am always pushing myself to be aware of that and be original,” it reads on her website. But Aaliyah’s life was cut far too short 15 years ago on Aug. 25, 2001, when she died in a plane crash in the Bahamas at the age of 22.
Timbaland produced nine songs on the album, including the debut single, “If Your Girl Only Knew,” “One in a Million,” “4 Page Letter” and “Hot Like Fire.” With his hit-making partner, Missy Elliott, the duo wrote eight cuts on the album. Timbaland’s work on One in a Million—along with production credits on Ginuwine’s debut album and Missy’s Supa Dupa Fly—set him up to be one of the most-sought-after hip-hop/R&B producers of the generation.
In the last 20 years, Jerkins has made a name for himself with several chart-topping hits including Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” Toni Braxton’s “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” Beyoncé’s “Deja Vú” and “Telephone” by Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Recently, his daughter, Heavenly Joy, opened the Republican National Convention this year by singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “America the Beautiful.”
Ginuwine, fresh off the release of his debut album, Ginuwine … The Bachelor, appeared with Aaliyah in the music video for the “One in a Million” remix. In 1997, he was featured on the song’s extended remix, which was included on the soundtrack for 1997’s Sprung.
In 2007, Ginuwine, along with R&B singers Tank and Tyrese, formed the R&B group TGT. The group released three albums, with its most recent, Three Kings, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. He paid his respects to his friend Aaliyah on Instagram last week on the 15th anniversary of her death.
In the last several years, Haughton has spoken out against two posthumous works about Aaliyah. He reportedly said he and the family did not approve of Drake’s posthumous LP in 2012. Then in 2014, he retweeted several fans who were dissing the Lifetime biopic on Twitter before it was released.
However, there is one project that he is excited about. In September, he and his mother, Diane, collaborated with fragrance company Xyrena to create an Aaliyah perfume. “Rashad provided us with a handful of colognes that Aaliyah frequently wore, which we then used as inspiration, pulling notes from each that worked well together to create an entirely new formula,” Xyrena’s CEO, Killian Wells, said.
In 2015, R&B singer Tink, under the direction of Timbaland, released a cover of “One in a Million.” The hitmaker is betting on Tink to be the next big thing in R&B. In 2014, he said that Tink’s album was the best he’d worked on since Aaliyah’s 1996 album. Timbaland is also the mastermind behind the music of Fox’s hit drama, Empire, as the show’s executive producer. Most recently, he signed a deal to produce music for fitness brand Zumba. On the 15th anniversary of Aaliyah’s death, Timbaland posted a loving memory of her on Instagram.
Together, Timbaland and Missy Elliott wrote and produced the majority of One in a Million. They had collaborated for years before this Aaliyah album—with Timbaland as a producer of Missy’s early girl group Sista. On One in a Million, Missy contributed background vocals on several of the songs she produced with Timbaland. She’s also the first voice heard on the album. Missy told MTV that she and Timbaland were nervous to meet Aaliyah for the first time. “But when we walked in the studio, her smile made the whole room glow!” Missy said. “She was like ‘Heyyyyy!’ and gave us big hugs and made us feel like we were her cousins from down South. She was a very sweet spirit!”
Over the past 20 years, Missy has earned five Grammy awards. After stealing the show at the 2015 Super Bowl, Elliott released “WTF (Where They From),” but has yet to release a full album since 2005’s The Cookbook. Recently, Missy was recognized on VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors in July as one of the queens of hip-hop. Earlier this summer, she appeared along with first lady Michelle Obama in a sketch for James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” She took to Instagram to commemorate Aaliyah on the 15th anniversary of her death.
Jermaine Dupri was a burgeoning producer in the mid-’90s when he produced “I Gotcha Back,” the 11th track on One in a Million. "I think it was fly that she took chances on her music," Dupri said about One in a Million in 2001, after Aaliyah’s death. "Just the softness of how she sang over them hard-ass beats, it was something different." His One in a Million production credit was on the heels of his No. 1 record with Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby,” and just before he went on to produce several tracks for Usher’s My Way.
Since One in a Million, Dupri has produced Grammy-winning hits for Usher, Mariah Carey and several other artists. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, his record label, So So Def, helped introduce Jagged Edge, Da Brat, Bow Wow and other artists to the world. Most recently, the super producer starred in BET’s reality docuseries, Music Moguls, which followed Dupri and other industry movemakers as they balanced their business and personal lives. He was also an executive producer for Lifetime’s The Rap Game, a reality show to find the next big rapper.
Vincent Herbert produced two tracks on the album: “Choosey Lover” and “Got to Give It Up.” Both songs sampled hits by the Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye, respectively. “My fondest memory of Aaliyah is spending Christmas with her and her family in Detroit,” he told Urban Daily in 2012. “This little girl sat in the studio and she worked hard. She had a good spirit. Good person, good family. Her mom, Diane; her father, Michael, and her brother. Just really nice people. I really enjoyed my time with them.”
Today, you may first think of Herbert as Tamar Braxton’s husband. But he’s been in the music business for quite some time. He is the owner of Streamline Records and is one force behind the greatness of Lady Gaga. Post One in a Million, Herbert produced several top hits, including “No, No, No Part 1” by Destiny’s Child.