Born on January 16, 1979, today would have been Aaliyah Dana Haughton‘s 32nd birthday.

“I had such a crush on Aaliyah… It was like a little boy crush but it was a true crush,” rapper J. Cole reflects on his feelings for the widely admired R&B icon, who tragically died aged 22 in a plane crash on August 25, 2001.

On hearing the sad news at the time, then-teenage Jermaine was inspired to produce a beat in Aaliyah’s honour; “I remember slightly what the beat sounded like,” he says, “but that was my way to pay respect in my own little world, in my own room…”

Interviewed by @RealDownToMars, Filmed & Edited by @Versetti
Soundtrack: “It’s Whatever” (Instrumental; Aaliyah Revisited) by Black Einstein