The Story Behind The Sample: Aaliyah’s era-defining ‘More Than A Woman’
(Credit: Single Cover)


The Story Behind The Sample: Aaliyah's era-defining 'More Than A Woman'

The late singer Aaliyah was a talent destined for greatness. With mega-producer Timbaland behind her, in the short time that the two made music, they had a massive impact on the sound of R’n’B going into the turn of the millennium. Aaliyah was the predecessor to Beyoncé and was one of the most prominent solo R’n’B singers of the late 1990s, along with the likes of Mary J Blige and Mariah Carey.

A true trendsetter, Aaliyah, with her emotional, heartfelt lyrics and angelic harmonies, set a precedent for upcoming singers. With Timbaland’s Arabian samples and quirky futuristic production, the tag team’s musical influence shifted popular culture and would become the sound of 2000s R’n’B. 

As well as being in a very public relationship with the now disgraced singer R Kelly, Aaliyah actually got married to the singer. Seemingly on a high, Aaliyah’s R’n’B reign was suddenly cut short when the singer passed away in what today is still classed as a disastrous tragedy.

In 2001 the singer flew in a Cessna 202 to the Bahamas to record a music video for her single ‘Rock The Boat’. However, the artist attempted to take a flight back to the US in a smaller Cessna 404, with the luggage exceeding the plane’s weight limit. Struggling to handle the load, the 404 simply crashed and caught fire after only ascending 200ft into the air.

One of the most well-known songs she made before her passing with Timbaland was ‘More Than A Woman’. The track was featured on her third and final album Aaliyah which is often referred to as ‘The Red Album’. Recorded in Manhattan Centre studios in New York, the track was released as the second single for the album and was written by Static Major. 

Produced by Timbaland, the song contains an obscure and interesting sample. However, it is one that aligns very clearly with Timbaland’s production style and sample selection. Timbaland (real name Timothy Mosley) is known for his frequent use of old Arabian music and although the way he repurposes it has often come under scrutiny, it is impossible to deny that his use of it has been ingenious.

The 2001 track, ‘More Than A Woman’ makes use of the song ‘Alouli Ansa’ by Syrian singer Mayada El Hennawy. Released in 1995, ‘Alouli Ansa’ is from El Hennawy’s album, Bayent El Hob Alaya. Born in the infamous city of Aleppo, El Hennawy was discovered at the age of 18 by Mohamed Abdel Wahab and quickly became a star within the world of Arab-pop. When Timbaland stumbled upon this Arab-pop album, he incorporated it into his production for ‘More Than A Woman’. However, the Syrian singer was initially uncredited.

Timbaland had the same issue with Jay-Z’s 2000 single, ‘Big Pimpin’. With regard to Jay-Z, an actual court case came up in which Ahab Joseph Hamdi took Jay-Z and Timbaland to court for the use of his father’s song ‘Khosara Khosara’. However, a California judge ruled in favour of Jay-Z and Timbaland, who Hamdi’s family had been paid for the sample. You can see the original sample below as well as ‘More Than A Woman’.