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Ben Baller Talks About Not Signing Aaliyah & Thinking Jay-Z Wasn’t Going To Be An Icon


Today is the 25th anniversary of the 1996 release of Aaliyah’s sophomore LP ‘One In A Million,’ which is a double-platinum Timbaland and Missy Elliott-produced project. It made its debut at No. 20 on the card and sold 40,500 copies within its first week during its original release. It peaked at No. 18 and spent 68 weeks on the chart.

The project was launched on digital streaming platforms through Blackground Records’ new partnership with EMPIRE. 

On Tuesday evening, on Clubhouse in the Genius Room, hosted by Rob Markman and Naima Cochrane, they were talking about Aaliyah’s “One In a Million” 25th Anniversary Talk.

Ben Baller reveals that he had the opportunity to sign Aaliyah and not thinking Jay-Z would be an Icon.

“There have been two times when I have been wrong and when I have been wrong, I have been more wrong there is. This was one of the times I was wrong. The other time was we had Jay-Z we just signed him to Priority Records. Me and Dame [Dash] are still close to this day and I & Big are close. And I’m like yo, I don’t think J is going to be huge. He ended up asking me to host Reasonable Doubt’s 20 Anniversary in LA, and I told him, that I am a f***** idiot,” said Baller.

“So, with the Missy Elliott situation, we were always friends and working on Aaliyah’s album. She is playing me reference of “One In a Million” in my car with her singing over every song on that album. Aaliyah’s voice wasn’t anywhere, and it is all Missy singing on them. All the reference tracks and it’s so different from everything because there was Dru Hill and all this other stuff at that time. I was just, like, you think really and she like you are sleeping right now. I can’t believe you are an A&R this s*** is going to be crazy and we were outside Tower Records. When Tower Records was that s*** on the Sunset strip and wanting to go in and get some sound because they were working Larrabee Studios. It is right down the street and she like you don’t understand this is crazy.”

He would continue, “I would become friends with Aaliyah totally separate after that, but I don’t know that album everyone said it was different and when people are talking about going to radio and trying to get ads. It was a different sound and everything, but I was dead wrong the s*** started catching heat, and everything. Her friend Gina Thompson’s remix came out and that was it. At that time, I had the chance to sign her to a solo deal at Aftermath records when I was an A&R. And she was rocking with me, she wrote an entire album for me, which was the Truth. She understood and I didn’t rub her the wrong way because there was politics going on. At first, I heard it in a reference style and then I heard it after. It was a different song than anything that was out from New York, LA, or anywhere.”

As you can tell, Baller was kicking himself in the foot, but as he said, all he had to go off was reference tracks in the case of signing Aaliyah. As for Jay-Z, he has gone on to be an icon and Ben Baller had to eat his words, but owned up to it at Jay-Z’s Anniversary party. Happy 25th Anniversary of ‘One In Million’ Aaliyah and Rest in Peace!

What do you think?

Written by Landon Buford

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