The entertainer had been shooting a video for "Rock the Boat" in the Bahamas and was preparing to return to the United States.
The Cessna 402, which had just lifted off from the Marsh Harbour airport on Abaco Island en route to Opa-locka, Florida, went down shortly before 7 p.m. ET, according to news reports.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Local police said the plane flew about 200 feet, crashed and caught on fire. Weather was not believed to be a factor.
However, CNN reports the pilot had asked the passengers to leave behind some of their luggage because the plane's load was too heavy, but the passengers refused.
Bahamian aviation officials have launched an investigation into the tragedy.
Aaliyah, who reportedly was killed instantly, was one of nine on the plane, six of whom perished in the crash. Three more died later of their injuries. In addition to the singer, two women and six men, including several members of Aaliyah's staff, were killed.
She is survived by her mother, father and brother. "Aaliyah's family is devastated at the lost of their loving daughter and sister. Their hearts go out to those families who also lost their loved ones in this tragic accident," her publicist, Jill Fritzo, said in a statement.
Her record label, the Virgin-distributed Blackground, said the company "is devastated with the loss of our Queen. The example she showed young people will be sorely missed and we hope her short time on earth will be an inspiration to young people all over the world."
Virgin Records also issued a statement: "Aaliyah, one of the world's brightest and most talented stars, will be mourned by all who loved her and loved her music. Her depth and versatility as an artist was matched by the passion and devotion she had for her craft."
According to her Website, Aaliyah was on a break from a promotional tour for her self-titled third album, which debuted at number two in July. Her promo tour was to resume next month.
She was born Aaliyah Dana Haughton--her name meaning "highest, most exalted one" in Swahili--in Brooklyn on January 16, 1979, and grew up in Detroit.
The onetime Star Search contestant made a splash with her 1994 debut album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number. The disc's success was overshadowed, however, by her eyebrow-raising liaison with her significantly older musical mentor, R. Kelly, who was 25 to her 15. Documents revealed the two were secretly wed, but without the permission of Aaliyah's parents. The union was quickly annulled and both artists refused to comment on it.
Her follow-up CD, 1996's One in a Million, was a multiplatinum smash, spawning the hit single "If Your Girl Only Knew."
She took a break from her recording career to make her movie debut opposite Jet Li in Romeo Must Die. The film certified her as a box-office comer and helped her land starring roles in the two upcoming Matrix sequels (the first of which, The Matrix Reloaded, was in preproduction and due to begin principal photography soon) and in the Anne Rice vampire adaptation Queen of the Damned (which is in post-production).
Between albums, she recorded two monster soundtrack singles: "Try Again," from Romeo Must Die, and "Are You That Somebody," from Dr. Dolittle. Both tunes earned her Grammy nominations. Another soundtrack cut she popularized, "Journey to the Past," from Fox's Anastasia, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song for its writers.
Last September, Aaliyah picked up two MTV Video Music Awards for her "Try Again" clip.
"Sometimes, when it's just my mom and me kicking it, I say, 'I'm 22, and I've accomplished so much,' " she told E! Online earlier this year. "I just know I have to appreciate every moment."
(updated 8/26/01 at 4:45 p.m. PT)