The rapper remembers the great kindness of the multiplatinum artist -- and is still coming to terms with her sudden death
Credit: Aaliyah: Phil Knott/Camera Press/Retna

Missy Elliott pays tribute to Aaliyah

I met Aaliyah about six years ago. She was doing her second album and looking for a new sound. Me and Timbaland were trying to get started, and we brought some tracks to her, and she loved them. We wound up doing eight tracks on her album. She was sincerely sweet. Me and Tim were unknown producers then and Aaliyah was a platinum artist. We thought she’d be some sort of uppity megasuperstar, but when we met her, she treated us as if we were Timbaland and Missy today, as though we had a name. She made us feel like family — very warm.

After that, it was like she was my little sister. We would hang out, go shopping together, or she would come to my house or we’d hang out in the studio. Our relationship went beyond the work we did together. We felt we had created a new sound, but it wasn’t like we just did records and that was it. It was more of a family vibe than just work. We could tell each other anything.

Her death was a huge shock to me. It’s only in the last month I’m coming to accept it a little. I’ve been having a lot of dreams about her. When somebody passes, you always go through a down period, and healing takes time. It was so unexpected — I feel like I was just in the studio with her. When somebody told me she died, I got in an argument with them — that’s how bad I wanted her death to just be a rumor. I still have days when I get really down about her death. Thanksgiving was really hard for me, knowing that she wasn’t here. But I’m someone who is very much into religion, and I feel like she’s most definitely in a better place. In my dreams, I see that she is.

(Aaliyah died in a plane crash on the island of Abaco en route back to the U.S. after shooting a video for her song ”Rock the Boat.”)

Read EW’s other yearend tributes:

DMC pays tribute to George Harrison

Kirk Douglas pays tribute to Ken Kesey

Kevin Spacey pays tribute to Jack Lemmon

Rob Reiner pays tribute to Carroll O’Connor

Ronnie Spector pays tribute to Joey Ramone