Hip Hop Journalist Tracks The Life & Legacy Of Aaliyah In New Book “Baby Girl”

Aaliyah artwork by Alecia Rodriguez

From critically acclaimed hip-hop journalist Kathy Iandoli, author of ‘God Save the Queens’ and co-author of Lil’ Kim’s forthcoming memoir, comes her latest work titled ‘Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah’ which hit shelves on August 17. ‘Baby Girl’ pays homage to the Princess of R&B, and has been published in time to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Aaliyah’s untimely death, August 25.

It is considered the definitive biography of Aaliyah—the talented R&B singer and artist whose tragic death at only twenty-two years old shocked the entertainment world and solidified her as an unforgettable music legend, featuring new in-depth research and exclusive interviews.

By twenty-two years old, Aaliyah had already accomplished a staggering amount: hit records, acclaimed acting roles, and fame that was just about to cross over into superstardom. Like her song, she was already “more than a woman” but her shocking death in a plane crash prevented her from fully growing into one.

Now, two decades later, the full story of Aaliyah’s life and cultural impact is finally and lovingly explored. ‘Baby Girl’ features never-before-told stories, including studio anecdotes, personal tales, and eyewitness accounts on the events leading up to her untimely passing. Her enduring influence on today’s artists—such as Rihanna, Drake, Lana del Rey, and many more—is also revealed, providing Aaliyah’s discography a cultural critique that is long overdue.

Eye-opening, moving, and as unforgettable as its subject, ‘Baby Girl’ is a necessary read for anyone who has been touched by Aaliyah’s music and story. (Note: This book was written without the participation of Aaliyah’s family/estate.)

We had the opportunity to speak with Kathy about the process of writing this book, her own career as a hip hop journalist, and the lasting legacy of an iconic Black female artist in a world that is finally creating space for more Black women’s voices on a mainstream level.

Cover of ‘Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah’ by author Kathy Iandoli | Simon & Schuster

Can you share with us how the idea for “Baby Girl” came about initially?

Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah came about after I finished my book God Save The Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop. I wanted to make my next project highlight another female icon that I admired, and considering 2021 was marking the 20th Anniversary of Aaliyah’s passing, it all just made sense.

As a hip hop journalist you have no doubt covered so many interesting stories throughout the years. Why did Aaliyah’s story particularly stand out to you?

I am coming from 27 years as an Aaliyah fan, so really the idea of writing about her was not a foreign concept to me. Through my 20+ years in journalism, I’ve written about Aaliyah extensively—even covering anniversary events at Ferncliff Cemetery where she’s buried. Since Aaliyah stood in between the two worlds of R&B and Hip-Hop, she has always just aesthetically and musically captivated me since day one.

Author Kathy Iandoli | Image by Krista Schlueter

Although her life and career were short-lived, her legacy has been so impactful even on artists today. Can you share more about this aspect of your book? 

I was so happy that I didn’t end this book on her passing. Rather, I discuss how she lives on, with so many fans writing letters to her for my book and including a whole chapter on the core fan sites and social media accounts that keep her in the news constantly. I would argue that the fans are the ones who prompted all of this wonderful news about Aaliyah’s music finally releasing to streaming services. Their demand proved that the world still wanted and needed more Aaliyah.

Who are some of the people that share personal stories in your book? 

I spoke with a lot of people who knew Aaliyah, including Lil’ Kim, Ja Rule, Jim Jones, as well as artists like Kash Doll and Rapsody who shared how Aaliyah influenced them.

Where there any aspects of Aliyah’s life you found surprising while researching her story? 

I had no idea that she tried out for a role on Family Matters. That completely blew my mind. That and the fact that she warmed up her vocals in the studio by singing opera. I loved that story.

Collage by Eddie OTCHERE

While hip hop has predominantly been very male-dominated, there have been female artists that have helped shift the culture with their perspective and presence, including Aaliyah. Can you share more about the impact of women in hip hop? 

Black women in general set trends across the board, but when you’re speaking specifically about hip-hop, you’re talking about nearly five decades where women have contributed monumentally to the culture and art form with very little credit. You can still spot their impact everywhere—from sound to fashion. I would place Aaliyah in that category of trailblazers as well who deserve to be celebrated loudly and with no limits.

You are also co-authoring Lil’ Kim’s forthcoming memoir. What can readers expect from this book? 

They can expect Lil’ Kim to finally tell her story on her own terms. I can’t wait for the world to read it.

What do you want music fans and readers to remember most about Aaliyah after reading “Baby Girl”?

I want them to understand that an artist like Aaliyah is rare. There’s a reason why she’s still thriving years after she left this planet. Few have the impact that Aaliyah has. I hope that people read this book and truly understand that the tag line and the song title were right: she was one in a million.

Get your copy of “Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah” by Kathy Iandoli by clicking HERE.

Artwork by Shasta M.D