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Vibe Magazine's Emil Wilbekin: Remembering Aaliyah

Emil Wilbekin is the editor-in-chief of Vibe Magazine. He followed Aaliyah's career for years, and was a personal friend of hers. He joined chat room from New York.

CNN: Good afternoon Emil Wilbekin. Welcome to Newsroom.

EMIL WILBEKIN: Hello, everyone. I'm sorry we're brought together under such sad circumstances.

CNN: You were a friend of Aaliyah's and have followed her career. What does her loss mean to the music community?

WILBEKIN: Aaliyah's loss is major, because she was one of R&B and urban music's brightest stars. She was an excellent singer, a talented performer, and a great actress, whose success had only just begun. There will be a huge gaping hole in urban music now that she's no longer with us.

Singer-actress Aaliyah's death was felt in the music and movie industries. CNN's Brian Palmer reports (August 26)

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: Aaliyah means "highest most exalted one" in Swahili. I was wondering what her ethnic background was?

WILBEKIN: Aaliyah's background is African-American, and she is of the generation whose names are largely taken from African names. But it is the perfect name for her.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Was the crash caused by an overloaded cargo hold?

WILBEKIN: The news reports first said that there was engine failure, and now there have been more reports saying that the plane was overloaded with luggage. We're still waiting to hear more from investigations.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What roles did she play in Matrix 2, and what other acting roles did she have lined up?

WILBEKIN: I'm not sure what her role was going to be in Matrix 2, but she did do preliminary photography and set up for the movie. She was set to go to Australia to do main filming next year, and the other movie that she recently completed is called "Queen of the Damned," which is inspired by an Anne Rice novel. She was also planning to play the lead in Sparkle, which is a remake of a 1970's movie that Whitney Houston was going to produce.

Message Board: Remembering Aaliyah  

CNN: Many say she was an excellent role model. How so?

WILBEKIN: Aaliyah is an excellent role model, because she started her career in the public eye at age 15 with a gold album entitled "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number." And then her second album, "One in a Million" went double platinum. She had the leading role in "Romeo Must Die," which was a box office success. She's won numerous awards, several MTV music video awards, and aside from her professional successes, many of her lyrics are very inspirational and uplifting. She also carried herself in a very professional manner. She was well spoken. She was beautiful, but she didn't use her beauty to sell her music. She used her talent. Many young hip-hop fans greatly admire her.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Has R. Kelly provided a public statement about Aaliyah's death?

WILBEKIN: We haven't heard any response from R. Kelly at this time. But some of my staff members were at a concert here in New York and saw him on Saturday before the time of the crash, and they noticed that he looked very sad.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will this accident change the way celebrities fly?

WILBEKIN: I don't know if Aaliyah's accident will change the way that celebrities fly, but I hope it will make people realize that life is very short, and that you have to appreciate everything each day. And when you are making decisions, to make sure that they are safe decisions and smart decisions. But there has been a long history of celebrities dying in plane crashes.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Does the death compare to that of the Latin singer Selena killed a few years ago?

WILBEKIN: I think that Aaliyah's death could definitely be compared to Selena's, because of her powerful music and lyrics, and her huge fan base. For urban music and hip hop, we also make the comparison to The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will Vibe Magazine be doing some sort of tribute to Aaliyah in the next issue?

WILBEKIN: Vibe will be doing a tribute to Aaliyah in our November issue, and we are scrambling to put it together now, in honor of her work and her contributions to urban music.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I read today that she had been nominated for an Oscar. . .is that true?

WILBEKIN: The Oscar nominations don't come out until January, so that is just a rumor.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: With so many who loved and respected her, who do you think will do her eulogy (her brother, Quincy Jones)?

WILBEKIN: I'm not sure who would do her eulogy. I know Quincy Jones is a very close friend of her family. His daughter Kidada is one of her best friends, and she was also very close with her younger brother and her mother. So, I'm not sure who will do the eulogy.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will MTV be showing the video she was shooting?

WILBEKIN: I'm sure that Virgin Records, as well as her management, Black Ground, will release the video that she just filmed because I'm sure her fans really want to see as much Aaliyah as possible.

CNN: Had her career gone forward, what do you suppose she would have been doing five years from now?

WILBEKIN: I think Aaliyah's career was developing in such a way that she was going to be one of the next big pop stars, the same as Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez or Whitney Houston.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: How will her death impact young urban kids?

WILBEKIN: I think that Aaliyah's death will always leave a hole in urban music, and I think that people will always miss her, but I hope that the positive image that she represented will carry on, and that young people will still aspire to the greatness that she exuded.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are there any unreleased songs that will be available now?

WILBEKIN: I'm not sure how many songs she recorded that haven't been released yet, but it is very common for singers to have unreleased material. So, hopefully we will one day get to hear more Aaliyah.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I saw that BET will be doing a tribute to Aaliyah this evening, do you know of any other programs coming up?

WILBEKIN: I know a lot of local radio stations are doing tributes to Aaliyah, and I'm sure that VH1 and MTV will follow BET's tribute.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts for us?

WILBEKIN: I'd like to send my condolences to Aaliyah's family, and just say that the world will be a less beautiful place without Aaliyah's music, dancing and acting.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today Emil Wilbekin and for your thoughts on Aaliyah.

WILBEKIN: Thank you, everyone, for your questions.

Emil Wilbekin joined Newsroom via telephone from New York. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Monday, August 27, 2001.

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