Mary J. Blige found her own musical voice


Mary J. Blige
Date: 
Mon, 1971-01-11

Mary J. Blige was born on this date in 1971. She is an African American singer.

Blige was born in Savannah, GA, moving with her mother and older sister to the Schlobam housing projects in Yonkers, NY, as a young girl. Her rough life there produced more than a few scars, physical and otherwise. Blige dropped out of high school in her junior year, spending time doing her friends' hair in her mother's apartment and hanging out.

When she was at a local mall in White Plains, NY, she recorded herself singing Anita Baker's "Caught Up in the Rapture," into a karaoke machine. Her stepfather passed the recording on to Uptown Records' CEO Andre Harrell. He was impressed with Blige's voice and signed her to sing backup for local acts like Father MC. In 1991, Sean "Puffy" Combs took Blige under his wing and began working with her on her debut album, "What's the 411?" Combs and his stylish touches added to Blige's unique vocal style, created a stunning album that bridged the gap between R&B and rap in a way that no female singer had before.

Her 1995 follow-up, "My Life," again featured Combs' handiwork, stepping back from its urban roots and featuring less of a rap sound and making up for that with its subject matter. "My Life" was full of ghetto pathos and Blige's own personal pain and rocky relationship with artist K-Ci Hailey, which likely contributed to the raw emotions on the album.

The period following the recording of "My Life" was also a difficult time professionally for Blige as she severed her ties with Combs and Uptown, hired Suge Knight as a financial advisor, and signed with MCA. 1997's "Share My World" marked the beginning of Blige's creative partnerships with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The album was another hit for Blige and debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Critics soured somewhat on its more conventional soul sound, but Blige's fans seemed undaunted.

By 1999, the fullness and elegance of her new sound appeared more developed, as Blige displayed a classic soul style aided by material from Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Stevie Wonder, and Lauryn Hill. She made it obvious that the ghetto and harsh aspects of her music were gone, while the sensitive power remained. That power also helped carry the more modern-sounding 2001 release, "No More Drama," a deeply personal collective effort musically with more of Blige's songwriting than anything before. "No More Drama" allowed listeners to see her musical path that produced an older, wiser, but still expressive artist.

Currently Blige is touring and acting. She started her own label, MJB Records. To many, Blige is more than the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Through all of her life, she was determined to find and maintain her own musical voice. By doing so, she has become one of the most successful R&B/hip hop writer/performers in the country, and has paved the way for many others who have followed her course.

Reference:
All Media Guide
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Person / name: 

Blige, Mary J.