Near the end of Ludacris’ set at Saturday night’s Powerhouse concert in Anaheim, California, someone came onstage and whispered in his ear. The rapper then addressed the crowd: “Hold up. This is serious. We just found out R&B singer Aalyiah was killed in a plane crash.” He then asked for a moment of silence from the stunned crowd. People turned and looked at each other in disbelief, thinking maybe they’d heard wrong.
A trip backstage after his set confirmed the sad news: The twenty-two-year-old singer/actress and eight others had been killed as a plane carrying them crashed and burst into flames shortly after leaving the Bahamas for Miami. At a show that should’ve been a party — with Ja Rule, Shaggy, Afroman, Nelly, Xzibit, OutKast and many more performing — the mood backstage at the R&B/hip-hop fest was anything but celebratory.
“For someone so talented, it’s sad to think they’re not going to contribute anymore to music or film,” said Nelly, who was performing as part of the hip-hop crew the St. Lunatics. “We’ve only been in the entertainment industry for a year and a half, but we’ve had definitely had the pleasure of meeting her. Our hearts go out to her family.”
“We’ve been friends since ’96,” said fellow R&B singer Monica. “She was an easy person to like. I want her family to know we’re here for her as artists, but this is bigger than the music industry. She was very talented, but more than that, she was a good person.”
Anthony Anderson, who appeared with Aaliyah in last year’s film, Romeo Must Die, was also backstage. “She was a great friend and a great person,” he said. “I think we’re all at a loss that she’s no longer with us.”
Ja Rule, who faced the difficult task of taking the stage after Ludacris’ announcement, said it was something that was with him as he performed. “It’s numbing. I got the news before I went on and I didn’t want to believe it, but I guess if you’re saying it, it must be true. It was definitely in the back of my mind as I was out there though. I loved baby girl. She was a sweet person.”
Rapper Ras Kass, who had appeared with Xzibit, said, “To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure if it was true or not, so I prayed that it wasn’t. I send love out to her family.”
The normally affable, accommodating Shaggy appeared especially distraught as he walked by the backstage area. “To be honest, I’ve never seen him this bummed,” say his label representative. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to talk about it.”