It’s undeniable: Drake and Chris Brown have worked so very hard to feature so very little of Aaliyah’s actual work in their projects. They’ve dodged criticisms from Aaliyah’s friends and (actual) collaborators, they’ve fielded accusations of obsession (Drake more so) and are set to repeat the cycle with Brown’s new release. Yet Aaliyah strangely remains as some sort of fixture, omnipresent in the music but never tangible, and lauded up before both men under the pretense of “tributing” or “paying respects.” Whatever Drake and Chris Brown choose to call their “reverence” is fine; I’m calling it dick riding.
Dick-riding is when you take the still popular, fiercely protected image of a Black woman and sprinkle it like money making magic on your subpar songs. Dick-riding is when you maybe or maybe not are working against the wishes of the aforementioned Black woman’s family. Dick riding is mostly definitely not working with any of her producers and sing her unreleased acapellas in an effort to pass off crude work as “13 or 14 new Aaliyah songs.” Dick-riding is fashioning her image in ways that serve to benefit you: splashed on walls, cut-and-sampled between syrupy lyrics.
The intentional boundary-stepping is what makes this use almost predatory; not on Aaliyah herself, but her name and legacy that was built on hard work and talent, and is clearly protected post-humorously by her family. Neither Brown nor Drake can deny that Aaliyah’s is a name that will always bring memories and experiences of love and warmth (since that was, of course, of her nature)—or at least generate some video views. To even consider implying that the use of Aaliyah’s image was meant in respects alone, in age where music of all respects are constantly looking to the past for inspiration and desperate for social media views, would not only be ingenue but also unbelievable. Aaliyah’s name has stood the test of time, and it’s a foundation Drake and Chris Brown can’t wait to stand on.