Aaliyah: More Than a Woman by Christopher John Farley

It was a small moment. But it was the moment when Paul Hunter realized Aaliyah was cool.
Oh, he liked her when he first met her back in 1996. He had met her through her uncle, the head of Blackground, who had arranged a meeting between the two in a New York studio. She seemed smart and shy and fun, and so Hunter agreed to work with her at some point.

That point came when they shot a video for one of her songs, “One in a Million,” in Los Angeles in 1996. Everything was going well, the project was on schedule, and it was time to move to another location. So the crew packed up and stuffed themselves into a car — and Aaliyah stuffed herself right in there with them. “I thought she was really cool,” said Hunter. “She was this young superstar and we need to go to the next location and she just rides over with the crew. She didn’t call for a limo or anything. It was really cute. She was just a regular girl in that respect, y’know?’

Before Aaliyah broke into films she was breaking the mold in music videos. In the mid-’90s, around the time that she was making her “One in a Million” video, it seemed as if the video form was dead. Finished. Stick a fork in it. The form seemed to lack the power to surprise or even to entertain. Musicians were making videos because they had to, because MTV was the new radio, because perhaps they had a couple of hours to kill after a gig on Saturday. Increasingly, at that time, videos were a thing to ridicule and even MTV itself was in on the mocking. MTV’s since-cancelled series Beavis and Butt-head made fun of videos; VH-1’s Pop-Up Videos seemed to say, with its very format, that videos weren’t interesting enough to watch anymore unless there was supplementary information to keep you from turning the channel to the Food Network.

One move that helped save videos: name checks. In the early ’90s, MTV started putting director’s names on the video credits; that meant filmmakers would get the credit — or blame — for what they did. If you made a heavy metal video full of half-naked supermodels, your mom was gonna call you. If you made a brilliant video with references to German Expressionism and “The Seventh Seal,” perhaps Hollywood was going to call you. So the word began to spread. Videos could lead to feature films. And, not too mysteriously, the quality of films began to go up.

Around this time a new wave of video wizards appeared on the scene: there was Hype Williams…

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