Appearing on YouTube’s The Geno Jones Show on Monday, Hankerson dished on how the LP came together. “About five years ago we realized we had quite a bit of music that we had never put out that was recorded by Aaliyah,” the Blackground Records founder said. “The vocals were there, and we decided to try to remaster it and to ask other artists that were big fans of her if they would like to participate in being on various songs.”
Pointing to the release of lead single “Poison” with The Weeknd, the record exec teased that other posthumous collaborations on the album include songs with Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg, Future, Drake and Chris Brown.
Hankerson also opened up about the personal toll of his niece’s untimely death in August 2001 at the age of 21. “The worst part, obviously, was when she passed away,” he told host Geno Jones. “But working with Aaliyah was always a pleasure. She was such a delight to work with ’cause she was very professional. She was very bright. She had an incredible memory, so she could read lyrics and remember them after only reading them once or twice.”
He continued: “It was very difficult sometimes when we were listening. Before we started listening to her sing, she would be maybe talking on the mic — just talking about personal things and…about how she wanted to hear the finished product of the song she was working on. So it was very emotional because we knew when she was saying that, she had no idea she would not be here to hear the finished product. So it was incredibly heart-wrenching at times. But we did suck it up and we got through it.”
Billboard reached out to a rep for Hankerson for more information on the release and had not heard back at press time.
Back in August, Billboard broke the news that Hankerson, along with EMPIRE Records, would finally be releasing Aaliyah’s back catalog to streaming services.
Watch Hankerson’s full interview about the new Aaliyah album below.