Behind the interviews: Who Karen Drew talked to for Aaliyah special

Local 4′s special looks back at Aaliyah’s life

Karen Drew and Kern Brantley.
Karen Drew and Kern Brantley. (WDIV)

Local 4′s Karen Drew has spent months interviewing some of the people who were closest to Aaliyah, 20 years since her tragic death.

(Watch the extended cut of our special on Aaliyah in the video player above and learn more about Aaliyah right here)

Here’s some behind the scenes on some of the interviews from Karen Drew:

Damon Dash, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, Aaliyah’s boyfriend at the time of her death

Talking to Damon Dash about Aaliyah, I could FEEL his love for her.  He told me he didn’t know what love felt like until he met Aaliyah. He said she was “dope .. and the coolest girl that I had ever met.” He went on to say how busy their lives were back in 2001 and they were hoping to take some kind of break so they could actually spend a solid six months together.

Karen Drew and Damon Dash. (WDIV)

Damon says they talked marriage and called Aaliyah his best friend. Damon went on to say Aaliyah still talks to him and gives him validations. He gave me an example, whenever he is in doubt about a decision, he says, out of nowhere, he hears Aaliyah’s name or a reference to her. He said, “If you really love Aaliyah, and you have a connection with her, just pay attention, because she is probably there with you, because she is always there with me.”

Kelley L. Carter, Senior Entertainment Writer, The Undefeated

I could have spent ALL day sitting with Kelley Carter talking about Aaliyah. Her knowledge, as well as the fact she grew up listening to Aaliyah, and was a Detroit Free Press reporter who followed Aaliyah’s career so closely, made her a wealth of information when we worked on this story. Plus, honestly, she is SO COOL!

Karen Drew and Kelley Carter. (WDIV)

Loved talking music, Detroit, and family with her. She also shared with me the fact she has covered many national big events, like the Grammys --- but told me being interviewed for Local 4 News will impress her family more than anything she has ever done (they are big Local 4 fans).

Pastor Marvin Winans -- Perfecting Church

I was really excited to sit down with Pastor Marvin Winans. Talk about a Detroit music icon. The stories he shared not only about Aaliyah, but other singers from Motown, had me glued in my seat. The pastor has a love and respect for Detroit musicians, singers, and performers. It truly was an afternoon I’ll never forget, sitting inside his church talking about gospel music and hearing about Detroit legends.

Bushman -- 97.9 WJLB

Talk about meeting an Aaliyah fan – loved sitting down with Bushman. He shared so many great Aaliyah stories. He also shared what a great practical jokester Aaliyah was – apparently she would call in on the request line acting like someone else to trick Bushman! He figured it out, but said Aaliyah ALWAYS had him laughing.

Tune-Up Man -- 105.1 The Bounce

You could tell Tune-Up Man really adores Aaliyah, and spent a lot of time talking about her spirit and how he feels her presence at times. His face just lit up when he shared stories about her visit to his studio, she would always tell him, “I’m going to make Detroit proud of me,” and she sure did.

Karen Drew and Tune-Up Man. (WDIV)

He told me, “she is always here, she will never leave us, as long as I play her music, she will live forever.”

Kern Brantley -- Aaliyah’s Music Director

So cool to sit down and talk to Kern about music and how he helped Aaliyah as her Music Director. He has worked with so many talented performers, like Destiny’s Child and Lady Gaga to name a few – but his experience with Aaliyah was truly touching. He knew her as a teen going to high school – he helped get musicians from the church to help her as she started out.

Karen Drew and Kern Brantley. (WDIV)

Kern told me he worried about her music not being heard for the younger generations because at the time of the interview it was not being streamed. That has since changed, as her sophomore album “One in a Million” was allowed to stream in mid August.

Marcus Devine -- Producer, Writer

Marcus shared with me how he performed on tour with Aaliyah during a concert where Keith Sweat and Blackstreet performed. He remembered how everyone was going crazy, and it was great to be among that energy.

Karen Drew and Marcus Devine. (WDIV)

He shared he wanted to see more of a recognition of Aaliyah here in Detroit. Stay tuned on that – things could be changing!

(Watch Karen Drew’s extended Aaliyah special right here)


About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.