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Mary J. Blige | Features



 
 
 
 
Mary J Blige SaveOurSoul artist of the month december 2001

MARY J BLIGE

No more drama

Mary J Blige, born on 11 January 1971. Grew up in the projects of Yonkers, New York. Surrounded by violence, Mary found an escape through music. She first began singing in church at the age of seven and quickly landed solos in the choir. She recalls her mother playing the music of Otis Redding, Gladys Knight, and Aretha Franklin in their home. In her teens she would attend block parties that blasted hip-hop music.

When she was seventeen, friends encouraged her to cut a demo tape at a local White Plains shopping mall. Mary's stepfather passed the resulting recording, a cover of Anita Baker's "Caught Up in the Rapture," to someone who knew someone, and before Blige knew it, a very interested Uptown Records C.E.O. Andre Harrell contacted her by phone.

But it was Sean "Puffy" Combs, an enterprising young producer at Uptown, who helped Blige perfect the sound and the image that would soon crown her the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul." Her 1992 debut album, What's the 411? mixed an R&B sensibility with hip-hop beats , and also generated a #1 single, Real Love.

The hip-hop quotient was represented by bass-driven rhythms, the soul stylings including her affecting voice. Guest appearances from rappers Grand Puba and Busta Rhymes were merely a bonus on this accomplished piece of work. When she journeyed to England for live shows in 1993 she was widely criticised for overpricing a set that was merely six songs long, but quality rather than quantity remains the keynote to Blige's career.

My Life was an edgy, raw set that dealt with the break-up of her relationship with K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci. According to her publicity handout, Share My World, her first album away from mentor Combs, marked "her personal and musical rebirth"; rebirth or not, it was certainly another excellent album. Mary featured guest appearances from the artists including, Lauryn Hill, Eric Clapton, George Michael, Elton John and, on the tense personal drama of "Not Lookin'", her ex-lover Hailey.

In 1996 Mary started recording without Andre Harrel en Puffy Combs. The inevitable split went peacefully. She started working with big-name producers such as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Babyface, R. Kelly, and Malik Pendleton and brought in friends like Nas and Lil' Kim

In 1999, Blige released Mary, her most personal album yet. It was well-recieved by both critics and fans and showed that Mary J. Blige was still on top of her game. The album, hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the top 10 Recordings of 1999, it featured contributions by Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Lauryn Hill, and her ex-lover K-Ci Hailey. The album garnered her 3 Grammy nominations. Blige maintained her impressive series of releases with 2001's No More Drama, featuring the US chart-topping single "Family Affair".

INTERVIEW with a drama queen

Imagine a Jackie Chan movie without flying fists and feet. Or a P. Diddy album without a yacht-load of special guests. Now imagine a Mary J. Blige album without the drama. Please believe it. On her fifth studio album, the queen of hip-hop soul has left her storied emotional struggles behind and come up with a title that says it all: No More Drama.
The album, an ode to funky, spiritual love and devotion, features mostly uptempo, danceable tracks produced by the likes of Rockwilder, the Neptunes, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Dr. Dre, who produced the first single, "Family Affair." Mary J. told Curtis Waller that she's ready to get crunk, hit the clubs and tell the world about finding her true love.


MTV: Around the time of the release of the Mary album, you said this new album was going to be more hip-hop based. Is that still true?
Mary J. Blige: It is. It's a combination of everything I've done. It's different from [my 1992 debut] What's the 411?, but music-wise you can dance to it. Everybody I missed the last time and the [time before that] will get this one.
MTV: Talk about some of the producers you worked with on this project.
Blige: I worked with Dr. Dre on the first single, ["Family Affair,"] Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, The Neptunes and a lot of new producers that people don't know anything about. And Rockwilder and Missy Elliott, of course.
MTV: What's "Family Affair" about? What's the story behind it?
Blige: I'm just celebrating my joy right now, my life. I'm just celebrating the fact that I'm no longer what I was mentally and spiritually. I'm somebody else, and it's just about me shaking off everything and going off and enjoying myself. [I'm saying], "Leave all your problems outside, we're going to have a good time tonight. This is Mary's joint. We are gonna have a good time and get crunk and get drunk." The lyrics say that, but let me get this right, it's about having a good time with your friends and drinking and doing whatever you do to the limits you
do it. It's time for Mary to have a good time too, but you know, the whole album doesn't consist of that [same vibe].
MTV:"Dance for Me" is a really upbeat track, and the groove on that is just so fresh. What are we talking about there?
Blige: When you say fresh, you mean like a breath of fresh air in music?
MTV: Yeah.
Blige: That's my aim with everything that I did this time, not to use a bunch of stuff that everybody uses. To use a bunch of things which would be refreshing [to the ear], but at the same time [make you say], "Woo, new stuff, new sample." That's another celebration record, another let's-pick-it-up-again, leave-all-your-troubles-and-cares-behind record. Don't drink too much, because we have all night. Do it in moderation - don't kill yourself. When you go to a club, you want everyone to dance. I'm just asking everybody to dance for me, enjoy this moment. We have problems, everybody's got problems, [but] just enjoy.
MTV: The title track is another song with a really strong message.
Blige: I did that song a year and a half ago. My album is called No More Drama, and that song is just saying, "Enough already, I'm shaking it all off and I'm not going to let anyone control me emotionally anymore." It's sort of a deliverance you get from that record, like you just don't wanna do it no more. Anybody that is trying to hurt you, if you are trying to hurt yourself, or you don't know you're hurting yourself, it should wake you up.
MTV: That song is one of the ones Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis worked on. Do you feel like they understand where you're coming from?
Blige: Working with Jimmy and Terry is always kind of personal, because they always seem to know what's going on with me in my life at that point. They came to me with the record and Jimmy sang the song over the music and I looked at him and I was like, "OK, who is following me around? Who's got the camera?" They just know what's going on. They know me very well. It's easy to work with them, because they let me do 50 million tracks and take the best.
MTV: I heard Lenny Kravitz is playing guitar on the album?
Blige: He's playing on the beginning of a song called "PMS." He was playing on a song called "Rock Steady," and it got leaked, so you will probably hear it in the clubs in another month.
MTV: Is "PMS" just about that?
Blige: Exactly. It's not vulgar, either. It's just about the basics ... women will understand. And if any man loves his woman, he will understand, too.
MTV: With this album you were saying it's kind of different, but a return to the What's the 411? sound. Can you take us through how your sound has evolved over your four previous studio albums?
Blige: My first album is playful. Then my life crashed and burned down: trials, men, drama, no self-love, no identity. A little identity, but not a lot of love for myself, my life. Share My World: confusion, trying to turn [things around], but can't really turn them around. Mary, turn. This album, I'm back. Everything is behind me - now [come] have a good time with me. I'm only trying to bring things together and not destroy anything. I don't want no drama in my life, even though we have a little bit, but no more letting people control you. That's drama, because then you become something that you're not.
MTV: Since you've been doing your thing, there's been a lot of new up-and-coming female artists. And just like you were influenced by Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin, new artists always mention you as an influence. How do you feel about doing for younger females what those who preceded you did for you?
Blige: I'm really, really happy with other artists looking at me [and saying], "We want to be like Mary." It's a great honor for people to look at you and want to be like you. It's sad that a lot of identities are lost and a lot of careers are lost because there's sort of a clone thing going on. I listened to Chaka
Khan and I listened to Aretha, but I don't sound like them. There's a difference. You gotta take what you need, love them and respect them, and build your own foundation with it. That's the message I want to give to every up-and-coming artist: Do everything that is going to help you later. If you clone somebody else, that's all they're gonna keep wanting from you. When it's time, are you going to know how to give you?
MTV: Not only do you encourage other singers, but women at your concerts seem really inspired by you as well. Why do you think that is?
Blige: Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your support, because it hasn't been easy. They stuck with me through the good and the bad. They stuck with me when I was fat at the Essence Awards [in 1998] and my stomach was hanging over my skirt, and they said, "Ahh!" I said, "I'm going to be all right, but thank you." And I came back in shape, and they were still there. I love my fans. I love what I'm doing, period. And I love the fact that I'm doing something that makes an ocean of women get up [on their feet]. I don't have no shame in anything I've done. Hey, I'm not perfect, and that's probably why a lot of women identify.
MTV: Who are some of the new maverick females that you like? Who are you listening to these days?
Blige: The only person that I'm really feeling - because she has an identity of her own, even though she has listened to Mary J. Blige - is Jill Scott. I like her an awful lot. I respect her style and what she is doing. I like what she is doing visually. I like what she is doing vocally. She's got her own package going. ... She's got enough respect for herself to say, "Nah, I can't do that. I want to do Jill." This new Jimmy Cozier cat, I'm loving his record.
MTV: I understand you worked with DMX on his upcoming project?
Blige: I did a song with DMX called "Angel." I think Regina Belle recorded it with him first, and I just recorded it again. We did a video for it, so I'm just waiting for the results.
MTV: Rick James gave you his blessing to use the name Mary Jane Girls for the girl group you're developing. What can fans expect from them?
Blige: People can look forward to seeing a mixture: Chinese, black and white, but soulful. Whatever white girl we get, she's going to be soulful like Christina Aguilera. ... They're going to be really pretty and really sexy and they are going to be young. Not like 13 - they'll be old enough to put sexy clothing on them.
MTV: With your album done now, are you working with any other people for their projects?
Blige: No. My artists are being developed. We're just shopping them around and we want to make a deal. The thing with the Mary Jane Girls is that we gotta find them. It shouldn't be hard to find three pretty girls of each nationality. We're doing a Mary Jane Girls contest on radio stations. Hopefully, the right ones will come.
MTV: You were talking about a tattoo you got: a male angel and a female angel on your back. You said it's called "Soul Mates." Do you feel as though your soul mate has arrived?
Blige: I think so. He has arrived. He's a reflection of me, what I've been working on for years. He's a reflection of why I had to go through everything I went through, to come out like this and draw the right things to me again. When you're seven years old, nobody can tell you anything different. [Now] I'm back to knowing who I am and I'm with somebody who knows who he is. He's gentle and kind. He's everything.

The Breakthrough
2005
Mary J. Blige - The Breakthrough Track Listing:
01. No One Will Do
02. Enough Cryin featuring Brook
03. About You featuring Will.I.Am & Nina Simone
04. Be Without You
05. Gonna Breakthrough featuring Brook
06. Good Woman Down
07. Take Me As I Am
08. Baggage
09. Can't Hide From Luv featuring Jay-Z10. MJB Da MVP
11. Can't Get Enough
12. Ain't Really Me
13. I Found My Everything featuring Raphael Saadiq
14. Father In You
15. Alone featuring Dave Young
16. One with U2
17. So Lady featuring Raphael Saadiq
18. Show Love
Love and Life
2003
Mary J. Blige - Love and Life Track Listing:
01. Love & Life Intro featuring Jay Z
02. Don't Go
03. When We
04. Not Today featuring Eve
05. Finally Made It (interlude)
06. Ooh!
07. Let Me Be The 1 featuring 50 Cent
08. Love @ 1st Sight featuring Method Man
09. Willing & Waiting
10. Free (interlude)
11. Friends
12. Press On
13. Feel Like Makin Love
14. It's A Wrap
15. Message In Our Music (interlude)
16. All My Love
17. Special Part of Me
18. Ultimate Relationship (AM)
19. Didn't Mean
20. If I Don't Love You this Way
No More Drama (Second Edition)
2002
Mary J. Blige - No More Drama (Second Edition) Track Listing:
01. LOVE
02. Family Affair
03. Steal Away
04. He Think I Don't Know
05. PMS
06. No More Drama
07. Rainy Dayz
08. Where I've Been
09. Beautiful Day
10. Dance For Me
11. No More Drama
12. Flying Away
13. Never Been
14. 2 U
15. In The Meantime
16. Forever No More - Poem
17. Testimony
18. Girl From Yesterday
No More Drama
2001
Mary J. Blige - No More Drama Track Listing:
01. Love
02. Family affair
03. Steal away
04. Crazy games
05. PMS
06. No more drama
07. Keep it movin'
08. Destiny
09. Where I've been
10. Beautiful day
11. Dance for me
12. Flying out
13. Never been
14. 2 U
15. In the meantime
16. Forever no more (poem)
17. Testimony
18. Checkin' for me
Mary
1999
Mary J. Blige - Mary Track Listing:
01. All that I can say
02. Sexy
03. Deep inside
04. Beautiful ones
05. I'm in love
06. As with George Michael
07. Time
08. Memories
09. Don't waste your time
10. Not lookin'
11. Your child
12. No happy holidays
13. Love I never had
14. Give me you
15. Let no man put asunder
16. Give me you (nino radio edit)
The Tour
1997
Mary J. Blige - The Tour Track Listing:
01. Intro
02. Real Love
03. You Remind Me
04. Reminisce
05. Sweet Thing
06. Mary Jane (All Night Long)
07. Love No Limit
08. Summer Madness
09. My Life
10. You Gotta Believe
11. Slow Down
12. Mary's Joint
13. I'm the Only Woman
14. Share My World
15. I'm Going Down
16. Thank You Lord
17. I Can Love You
18. Keep Your Head - Dustin Adams
19. Everything
20. Seven Days
21. Not Gon' Cry
22. Missing You
23. Day Dreaming
24. Misty Blue
Share My World
1997
Mary J. Blige - Share My World Track Listing:
1. Intro
2. I can love you
3. Love is all we need
4. Round and round
5. Share my world (interlude)
6. Share my world (2)
7. Seven days
8. It's on - (with R. Kelly)
9. Thank you Lord (interlude)
10. Missing you
11. Everything
12. Keep your head
13. Can't get you off my mind
14. Get to know you better
15. Searchin'
16. Our love
17. Not gon' cry
18. You make me feel like a natural woman
My Life
1994
Mary J. Blige - My Life Track Listing:
01. Intro
02. Mary Jane
03. You bring me joy
04. Marvin interlude
05. I'm the only woman
06. K Murray interlude
07. My life
08. You gotta believe
09. I never wanna live without you
10. I'm going down
11. My life interlude
12. Be with you
13. Mary's joint
14. Don't go
15. I love you
16. No one else
17. Be happy
18. You make me feel like a natural woman
What's the 411
1992
Mary J. Blige - What's the 411 Track Listing:
01. Leave a Message - Tony Dofat
02. Reminisce
03. Real Love
04. You Remind Me
05. Intro Talk - Tony Dofat
06. Sweet Thing - Tony Dofat
07. Love No Limit
08. I Don't Want to Do Anything
09. Slow Down
10. My Love
11. Changes I've Been Going Through
12. What's the 411?
Mary J. Blige official website
Mary J. Blige Myspace site
 
 
 
 
 
 
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