Lifetime’s Aaliyah movie, “Princess of R&B” was a colossal disappointment

The actors who portrayed Aaliyah and Damon Dash bore little resemblance to the actual couple.

The actors who portrayed Aaliyah and Damon Dash bore little resemblance to the actual couple.

By Carmen Glover

After enjoying the thoughtful, well-delivered film “Beyond the Lights” at the movie theater on Saturday, November 15, my husband and I ordered in and tuned in to Lifetime’s much-hyped biopic “Aaliyah: Princess of R& B.” It was an exercise in futility, a colossal disappointment on every level imaginable. And irate Aaliyah fans let loose on Twitter, unleashing their wrath as the scenes unfolded to reveal a combination of inferior acting, incomprehensible casting choices and what seemed more like an ode to R. Kelly’s predatory, pedophile-like history, instead of the promised tribute to the beautiful, talented entertainer who died much too soon.

The late Aaliyah and the real Damon Dash.

The late Aaliyah and the real Damon Dash, co-founder with Jay-Z of Rockefella Records and Rockawear clothing.

While Alexandra Shipp did her best dressing like Aaliyah and performing “Let Me Know,” it was impossible for her to fully channel the tragic entertainer. For instance, Shipp covered one eye with her hair a total of one time throughout the two-hour movie, even though that was the way Aaliyah was usually seen in public. Also, as the film began and for close to an hour, the focus was on Aaliyah’s involvement with R. Kelly, who married her secretly at the age of 15, when he was 26.

Aaliyah and Jet Li in "Romeo Must Die." Jet Li was ignored in the Lifetime film.

Aaliyah and Jet Li in “Romeo Must Die.” Jet Li was ignored in the Lifetime film.

Across the US, it is considered statutory rape for anyone to have sexual contact with a child, under the age of 18. Yet the film seemed hell-bent on trying to romanticize what was a predatory relationship, regardless of what spin Lifetime’s and the movie’s executives desperately tried to pretty it up. Kelly’s exploits with under-aged girls are well-known and he has the many court charges and appearances to prove it. Nevertheless, Lifetime, Wendy Williams, Debra Martin Chase and all the other persons associated with this disgraceful material felt comfortable framing half of a so-called Aaliyah movie in the context of a “relationship” with Kelly.

Aaliyah in "Queen of the Damned." which was ignored in the Lifetime movie.

Aaliyah in “Queen of the Damned.” which was ignored in the Lifetime movie.

Then there was the casting, which defied logic entirely. While Shipp is stunningly beautiful and has modest talent as a singer, she was unable to accurately convey Aaliyah’s range, dexterity and passion as a singer, dancer and actress, but she did the best she could. Who thought is was a good idea to cast a Derek Luke look-alike as Aaliyah’s uncle, a Drake look-alike as her brother Rashad, a Joe look-alike as Kelly, a hybrid of a skinny basketball player and a light-skinned person as the much darker, shorter, rounder Damon Dash, a light-skinned, skinny Missy Elliot and a thin, curly-haired Timbaland who looked like a school boy? Who signed off on such an atrocity?  Taking to Instagram, Timbaland dismissed the movie and urged people not to watch it, which was a silly move. How else will you know what it is like unless you watch it to the end?

Light-skinned, slender actors portrayed the dark-skinned, rounder Timbaland and Missy Elliot (inset) in the Lifetime Aaliyah biopic.

Light-skinned, slender actors portrayed the dark-skinned, rounder Timbaland and Missy Elliot (inset) in the Lifetime Aaliyah biopic.

Williams promoted the film relentlessly on her show and urged her viewers to watch the film. She should be ashamed of herself for having her name associated with this epic failure. So should Martin Chase. The fact that they lacked the family’s approval to play Aaliyah’s music does not mean that they could not have produced a movie that told her story with respect, addressed the Kelly debacle in ten minutes or so, showed her acting in “Romeo Must Die,” and “Queen of the Damned,” devoted appropriate time, care and attention to her successful alliance with Timbaland and Elliot as well as her relationship with Dash.

After all, the template for the film was provided by the book,”Aaliyah: More than a Woman,” written by a respected journalist, Christopher John Farley, a Jamaica-born industry veteran who worked at Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and has been interviewed often on television about music matters. The Lifetime movie did not provide solid information for fans who were not born when Aaliyah was alive. Lifetime, Williams and Martin Chase have crossed the line and caused more harm than they could have imagined with this awful movie that elicited enormous feelings of anger, disappointment and shock. Shame on Lifetime! Shame on Wendy Williams! Shame on Debra Martin Chase!–OnPointPress.net.

Hip Hop shows creativity, business acumen born from struggle (Part II)

Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Puffy are 3 of the most successful Hip Hop artists and have used savvy business sense to amass considerable wealth.

Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Sean “Puffy” Combs are 3 of the most successful Hip Hop artists and have used savvy business sense to amass considerable wealth.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Hip Hop is a global phenomenon that has become profitable in a myriad of ways to give an example of how monumental the culture really is. While Hip Hop music continues to be dissected and scrutinized for its content and imagery, remnants of Hip Hop can be recognized in more places than ever. Moguls like Puffy, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z deserve praise for the business mode and financial growth they show. As Hip Hop celebrates 40 years of existence, it is clear that the momentum generated by the genre’s pioneers is sustained by those who continue to embrace and expand on their vision.

Russell Simmons was ahead of his time and helped fuel the spread of Hip Hop culture on the big and small screen.

Russell Simmons was ahead of his time and helped fuel the spread of Hip Hop culture on the big and small screen.

In terms of Hip Hop pioneers, Russell Simmons stands out because his vision to spread Hip Hop to multiple audiences established a model that is still in use today. Simmons had the foresight to create the movie Krush Groove which showed what he went through in establishing his record label, Def Jam while developing opportunities for his brother, Rev Run of Run DMC. Simmons also helped with the explosion of black comedy on television with his Def Comedy Jam series.

Simmons’ exploits became a blueprint for others within Hip Hop to recognize that the music was just the beginning of the connection Hip Hop would make to audiences around the world. Simmons started his own clothing line, Phat Farm, as he continued to grow his empire. Simmons, who is also an author, said n a recent interview, “When you have a voice, you use it, if you can…So, as a person who runs a company, I’ve been to the Congress to promote a law, you know?”

Hip Hop artists learned early that they could use their talents in more than music. (Clockwise from top left) Rza, Method Man, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Ice Cube.

Hip Hop artists learned early that they could use their talents in more than music. (Clockwise from top left) Rza, Method Man, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Ice Cube.

As Hip Hop culture spread to the big and small screen, so did its artists. LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Busta Rhymes, Lauryn Hill, Eminem, Rza, Method Man and Redman were among some of the many Hip Hop artists that had acting roles throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. With varying levels of excellence, they showed that the ability to connect to an audience extended beyond having a microphone in their hands. In fact, Ice-T and Will Smith became so accomplished as actors that some forget about their contributions to Hip Hop music.

Will Smith  (top) and Ice-T (bottom) have been so successful as actors that some forget about their music careers.

Will Smith (top) and Ice-T (bottom) have been so successful as actors that some forget about their music careers.

The growth of Hip Hop culture has been beneficial to many within the music industry throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. As the music began to be accepted in more places, the producers of the music began to rise to prominence. There were a number of producers who started music labels and grew their own brand. The appreciation for the music created opportunities for many associated with Hip Hop to develop a better business sense to protect their work, names, and brand.

Missy (top), Pharrell Williams (left) and Kanye West (right) initially earned success as producers, then became successful artists.

Missy Elliott (top), Pharrell Williams (left) and Kanye West (right) initially earned success as producers, then became successful artists.

Puffy formed Bad Boy Records, Jermaine Dupri formed So-So Def, Master P formed No Limit Records, and Birdman formed Cash Money Records. These were just a few of the lucrative labels that were responsible for some of the biggest Hip Hop hits in the 90’s and 2000’s. The success these entrepreneurs had allowed for them to have more control of their rights within the music industry and have control over who would work with them. The aforementioned label owners signed and promote local artists who might not have been accepted at other record labels.

(Clockwise from lop left) Master P, Birdman, and Jermaine Dupri were producers who started their own labels.

(Clockwise from top left) Master P, Birdman, and Jermaine Dupri are producers who started their own labels.

In addition to starting labels, it also became common for producers to become recording artists. Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, and Kanye West are three of the most successful producers to make the transition to artist. They acknowledge the challenge that comes with their success. Their success laid the ground work for current artists to recognize the broad range a person can have within the music industry. Current artists have adapted and used current technology to produce music and videos as they have learned the value of having as much control over their careers as possible.

“When I create something, it’s gotta be special and it can’t just be to throw something out there because I feel like I’m Missy…I gotta feel like what I’m giving the fans is 100 percent and that it’s game-changing,”  Elliott said in an interview.

TLC (top), Mariah Carey (left), and Mary J. Blige (right) will forever be associated with Hip Hop though they weren't rappers.

TLC (top), Mariah Carey (left), and Mary J. Blige (right) will forever be associated with Hip Hop though they weren’t rappers.

With Hip Hop becoming such a profitable brand, other genres of music were willing to blend with it. R&B became the most frequent collaborator with Hip Hop as producers like Teddy Riley and Dr. Dre helped lead a R&B/Hip Hop blend of music that ascended to the top of the charts throughout the 90’s and 00’s. Some of the top-selling R&B artists of the 90’s like Brandy, Monica, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Usher and TLC, openly embraced Hip Hop and became forever associated with the genre.

Today's Hip Hop stars are visible in many different platforms. (l - r) Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne are part of the Young Money group are among the top  selling artists of the past few years.

Today’s Hip Hop stars are visible in many different platforms. (l – r) Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne are part of the Young Money group and they are among the top selling artists of the past few years.

Today, Hip Hop stars have learned from their predecessors and are recognized for multiple achievements. Hip Hop moguls created clothing lines such as Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Sean John’, Jay-Z’s Roc-a-wear, Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Wear, and 50 Cent’s G-Unit Clothing. Drake was known as an actor before becoming a top-selling artist. Nicki Minaj became a judge on the popular music talent show, American Idol, while continuing her music career. Other artists have used YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to grow their audiences and maintain viability in a complicated music industry.

“All we’re really doing is continuing to sell the idea that you [fans] can liberate yourself. You don’t have to follow someone else’s blueprint to be successful,” Williams said.

Dr. Dre has continued to evolve, starting as a producer and artist and is now recognized as a businessman.

Dr. Dre has continued to evolve, starting as a producer and artist and is now recognized as a very successful businessman who has partnered with other entrepreneurs to broaden his brand.

Dr. Dre’s recent $3.2 billion deal with Apple to sell his Beats By Dre brand of headphones and speakers is a sign of the continued influence of Hip Hop. The music will always be scrutinized as it continues to be the prevailing vehicle for musicians to express their thoughts about observations that are not always fun to deal with. Positive and negative images and messages within the music are no different in this genre than what is seen on television or in the movies. However, Hip Hop culture has grown in immeasurable ways, making multi-millionaires out of numerous young men and women who were just trying to find a way to express themselves.

Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Puffy, and Simmons are among the biggest names in American History because of their influence on business and entertainment, not just Hip Hop. They have set an example for others to learn from in terms of building on artistic talent to expand into business ventures. As President Barack Obama eloquently stated, “Hip Hop is not just a mirror of what is, it should also be a reflection of what can be.”  –OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.