20 Years of Hip-Hop Soul Hits: Happy Birthday, Mary J. Blige
Photo by Marco Torres
Every time we hear a new Mary J. Blige single on the radio, we ask ourselves, "REALLY, MJB? Again? OK, girl." We literally said that in the car last week when we heard her new single "Mr. Wrong."
Of course, the proclaimed "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" has never given us reason to doubt her resilience. She's turning 41 today, is set to star in Rock Of Ages The Movie and a biopic about Nina Simone, and is probably in the process of writing her next album in the meantime.
And after selling 50 million albums throughout her career, she might venture to a completely different style of music. Blige is a definitive artist for more than one genre of music; she's the only musician who's received a Grammy for R&B, hip-hop, gospel, and pop. Even her signature perfume has won awards.
So, in honor of her majesty's 41st birthday, we went through some singles from each of her albums since the debut in 1992. She's changed with the times, but she's still stayed true to herself and that's why she's one of our favorite contemporary divas.
"Mr Wrong" My Life II...The Journey Continues (2011)
Drake collaborated with Mary for a second time on this new single, although he isn't featured in this version or in the official video. My Life II, a sequel to the 1994 album My Life, is Blige's 10th studio album and still managed to debut at number five on the Billboard 200. Blige knows how to work with the right people and stay up-to-date without looking like she's trying too hard. This will probably keep her in the music game for at least another 5 years.
"The One" Stronger With Each Tear (2009)
Not only has Mary been on the cutting edge of fashion, but music too. She and her partners were on peep game for features long before any other artist who's now begging Drake for a cameo. She also had features from Trey Songz and T.I. Work with the right people, honey, and stay current.
"Just Fine" Growing Pains (2007)
Fine fine fine fine fine fine, woo! We can agree that this song almost got kind of annoying, right? You gotta give credit where it's due, though...Mary J. Blige knows how to deliver a dance song that's also empowering instead of degrading.
"Be Without You" The Breakthrough (2005)
By 2005, Mary was still releasing number one albums. In 2005, she got together with some of the biggest producers at the time, including 9th Wonder, J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, and will.i.am. This song was number one on the R&B charts for fifteen consecutive weeks.
"Love @ First Sight" ft. Method Man Love And Life (2003)
There are so many wonderful things about this video, proving that during the early 2000's, people still didn't know what was going on. Remember the tennis shoe heels? Yeah, we rocked those. Mary has always been on the cutting edge of fashion.
"Family Affair" No More Drama (2001)
Dr. Dre produced this single, which no one could really get away from that year. Hell, we still can't really get away from it. It's the ultimate white-mom jam. Even the video is iconic, the salt and pepper wig is timeless.
"All That I Can Say" Mary (1999)
Mary briefly departed from hip-hop and R&B to experiment with adult contemporary, using '70s and '80s-style soul beats during a time when a new group of female rappers were coming on the scene, like Eve.
"Everything" Share My World (1997)
Share My World was written and recorded after Mary broke up with K-Ci from Jodeci. Blige admitted that she and K-Ci had been in a very abusive relationship, involving substance abuse and other unhealthy activities.
"Be Happy" My Life (1994)
After Mary's successful debut album, Puff Daddy got on board to produce over half of this followup album. Like her first, this record stayed true to 90's R&B...except this time, Mary got to write a great deal of the material.
"You Remind Me" What's the 411? (1992)
When Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs introduced Mary to Uptown record executives, he was 19 years old and wanted to market her as the "Queen of Ghetto Love." The suits at Uptown didn't like the nickname, so they donned her the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, dressing her down in hats and baggy clothes as an antithesis to other artists like Whitney Houston.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.