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Aaliyah's Estate Slams 'Unscrupulous' Effort to Release Her Music 'Without Transparency'

·5 min read
Aaliyah
Aaliyah

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Aaliyah's estate is standing firm in their effort to protect the late singer's legacy.

Weeks before the 20th anniversary of her tragic death, Aaliyah's estate released a statement slamming an effort by the singer's former label to drop her music on streaming services. (On Instagram, Blackground Records 2.0 shared a website and hashtag #AaliyahIsComing earlier this week teasing the return of her music.)

"Protecting Aaliyah's legacy is, and will always be, our focus. For 20 years we have battled behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception with unauthorized projects targeted to tarnish," the estate wrote in a statement on Wednesday. "We have always been confused as to why there is such a tenacity in causing more pain alongside what we already have to cope with for the rest of our lives."

"Now, in this 20th year, this unscrupulous endeavor to release Aaliyah's music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate compels our hearts to express a word — forgiveness," the statement continued. "Although we will continue to defend ourselves and her legacy lawfully and justly, we want to preempt the inevitable attacks on our character by all the individuals who have emerged from the shadows to leech off of Aaliyah's life's work."

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RELATED: Missy Elliott, Fans Remember Aaliyah 19 Years After Her Tragic Death: 'The World's Forever Muse'

The estate ended its statement writing that it desired "closure and a modicum of peace" as they focused on the Aaliyah Memorial Fund and "other creative projects that embody Aaliyah's true essence, which is to inspire strength and positivity for people of all creeds, races and cultures around the world."

On Twitter, many fans expressed their frustration and confusion with the estate's statement and the conflicting messaging from her former label.

"Fans are confused as to what they are supporting. So much has been said after Aaliyah's death that left a lot of us w/ questions," wrote one Twitter user. "Not to mention the fact that fans have been deprived of her music since her death. We want to support what's right but we want the music too."

"With all due respect it's been 20 years. You mean to tell me that Aaliyah worked to build her legacy for 22 years, only for yall to still fight?" added another. "Her fans want to celebrate her life and legacy and music. We cant because yall haven't gotten things in order. This is a travesty!"

Meanwhile, Spotify's official Twitter account shared a release calendar for her music. One in a Million will drop on the platform on Aug. 20, Romeo Must Die Soundtrack on Sept. 3, Aaliyah on Sept. 10 and both I Care 4U and Ultimate Aaliyah on Oct. 8.

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And, according to a report from Billboard, Blackground Recods founder Barry Hankerson, who's also Aaliyah's uncle, made a deal with EMPIRE to begin releasing her catalog on streaming services starting Aug. 20. (The report also shared that other artist catalogs — including JoJo, Toni Braxton, Timbaland & Magoo and Tank — will also be made available.)

"Blackground Records has always been about independence and ownership," Barry Hankerson said in a press release, announcing the upcoming album releases. "From day one, we set out to shake up the music industry and partnering with a company like EMPIRE continues that legacy. This is Blackground Records 2.0."

Following the estate's Twitter message, Paul LiCalsi, an attorney for the estate, issued a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

"Since the early 2000s, only Aaliyah's first album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number has been available on streaming platforms because the right to distribute that record has been held by major record companies under contract with Aaliyah's record label, Blackground Records," LiCalsi's statement read. "Other than that first album, virtually the entire remainder of her catalog, including many never released tracks, has been inexplicably withheld from the public by Blackground Records. Aaliyah's Estate has always been ready to share Aaliyah's musical legacy but has been met with contention and a gross lack of transparency."

"For almost 20 years, Blackground has failed to account to the Estate with any regularity in accordance with her recording contracts. In addition, the Estate was not made aware of the impending release of the catalog until after the deal was complete and plans were in place," the statement continued. "The Estate has demanded that Blackground provide a full account of its past earnings, and full disclosure of the terms of its new deal to distribute Aaliyah's long embargoed music."

RELATED VIDEO: Aaliyah Remembered by Family and Fans on What Would Have Been the Late Singer's 40th Birthday in 2019

The new statement comes eight months after Aaliyah's estate shared an update about their efforts to bring her music to streaming services.

"We hear you and we see you. While we share your sentiments and desire to have Aaliyah's music released, we must acknowledge that these matters are not within our control and, unfortunately, take time," the statement began. "Our inability to share Aaliyah's music and artistry with the world has been as difficult for us as it has been for all of you. Our priority has always been and will continue to be Aaliyah's music."

"In the meantime, however, we are working diligently to protect what is in our control — Aaliyah's brand, legacy, and intellectual property," the statement continued. "In doing so, we will continue to release unique and exciting projects to keep Aaliyah's legacy and light shining."

Aaliyah, who died at age 22 in a plane crash, only has her debut album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number available on streaming services, according to Billboard. Fans have long sought after the release of the singer's additional music, including her album, One in a Million, and her 2001 self-titled album.

Her music catalog has been under the responsibility of her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson, Billboard reported.

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