This is a very sexual song, using various nautical terms as metaphors for sex ("I love your stroke," "Let's take this overboard"). It was popular on the "Quiet Storm" and "Late Night Love" R&B radio programs.
The Hype Williams-directed video was shot in the Bahamas, and after the shoot, Aaliyah and eight others were killed when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff. She was just 22 years old.
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
Williams counts the video shoot among some of the best times in his career due to the camaraderie on set and Aaliyah's charismatic personality. The veteran hip-hop director told MTV News: "Some stars have a unique way of capturing their audience without saying a word. That comes from charisma, it comes from charm. A lot of it comes from someplace else. I can't really define it, but I'm always able to recognize it. She had that 'magic,' for lack of a better word."
The words were written by Static Major and the music by the Key Beats production duo of Eric Seats and Rapture Stewart. Static didn't take long to pen the chorus. Seats recalled to Fuse TV: "Static heard it through my headphones. I took a break and went to the rest room, and by the time I got back he had already written a hook."
Stewart continued, "I wouldn't say it was an accident, but we weren't vibing with it as much. It was one of those things like if he had came ten minutes later, he probably would've never heard it."
This was released as the third single from Aaliyah in January 2002 in the United States. It also was Aaliyah's favorite song on the album to record. "'Rock the Boat' hit her real hard," Rapture Stewart recalled to Fuse TV. "She was the one advocating to make that a single, because [the label] was trying to make sure whatever Timbaland produced were up to be singles. But she gave them hell and refused to let them do things. Even Timbaland loved it."