Aaliyah‘s uncle, producer Barry Hankerson – who introduced the singer to R. Kelly before the pair collaborated on her debut album – has opened up discovering the alleged abuse his niece experienced from Kelly.
Kelly and Aaliyah’s relationship, which began when he was 27 and she was 15, has been touched on during Kelly’s current trial in New York on racketeering charges. Earlier this month, a former tour manager for Kelly claimed he paid a government worker for a false ID in order to help secure marriage between Kelly and an underage Aaliyah.
Demetrius Smith alleged Kelly had pressured him to obtain fake documentation, a decision made by Kelly and his “associates” after he believed Aaliyah had fallen pregnant. Prosecutors are arguing that Kelly arranged for the marriage in the hopes it would prevent her from having to testify against him. The singer died in a plane crash in 2001.
As HotNewHipHop reports, Hankerson has now spoken during an interview on the Rickey Smiley Morning Show about how he reacted to learning of Kelly’s alleged misconduct towards his niece. “To be very honest with you, of course, I was upset. I had to really, really consider what my actions would be,” he said.
Hankerson suggested he initially considered some kind of retribution towards Kelly. “I found out, I wasn’t a hardcore criminal. I couldn’t kill nobody,” he explained. “So, I took it, I’m a Muslim, and I went to Minster Farrakhan and we just prayed about it, resolved ourselves to let God handle him. I think that’s what’s going on. Ain’t no sense in two lives getting destroyed.”
Hankerson went on to say he has been actively avoiding coverage of Kelly’s ongoing trial in New York on racketeering charges. “It’s just too emotional for me. It just brings back too many bad thoughts for my whole family,” Hankerson said. “He impacted my whole family, you know. It’s just a bad thing.”
Kelly is currently facing an ongoing trial, on charges related to alleged crimes against five female accusers – three of whom were purportedly underage at the time – who allege physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
He will also face a number of other charges in separate trials, two in Chicago (one federal, one state), and one state trial in Minnesota. Kelly has denied all wrongdoing and pled not guilty to the nine charges in the ongoing case in New York.
Hankerson recently issued a statement regarding the re-release of Aaliyah’s second album ‘One in a Million’ to streaming platforms earlier this month. Her debut album ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number’ was previously the only one of her three albums available digitally.
Hankerson, who founded Aaliyah’s former label Blackground Records and owns all of the artist’s masters, announced earlier this month that her entire catalogue would be re-released digitally.
“Thank you to all of her many fans for keeping her music alive,” he said. “I’m sorry it took so long, but when you lose a family member so unexpectedly, it takes time to deal with that type of grief. I decided to release Aaliyah’s music in order to keep her legacy alive.”