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Hankerson began to use Knight’s connections and capitalize on her celebrity.

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Digital voids like these can result from legal battles over uncleared samples (as with De La Soul), or from musicians holding out for better royalty terms (the Beatles, until recently).

The 70-year-old Harlem native was an extraordinary figure in the music business, who helped launch not just Aaliyah’s career, but also those of R. He also played starting safety on the school’s football team, and after graduation, had auditioned for a roster spot with the New York Jets.

But he never made it past the development league, and hung up the cleats after a year, seeking a career in politics.

The situation puts her entire musical legacy at risk of fading from memory.

Year by year, streaming accounts for a greater portion of an artist’s visibility and reverence among the next generation of listeners. To understand Aaliyah, and the fate of her iconic catalog, you have to understand her uncle, Barry Hankerson, who groomed the singer for stardom from a young age as her manager and the co-founder of her label home, Blackground Records. “I’m consistently amazed by the things Barry Hankerson has accomplished,” says veteran music journalist Jim De Rogatis, one of the few members of the press ever to talk regularly with Hankerson, mostly during his long tenure at the . Almost nothing is known about this man.” Despite multiple requests for comment, Hankerson declined to participate in this story. In the late 1960s, he attended the historically black Central State University in Ohio, majoring in sociology and developing a reputation as a campus radical.