Queen of Hip Hop/Soul
“I don't know. Only God knows where the story ends for me, but I know where the story begins. It's up to us to choose whether we win or lose and I choose to win.” Mary J Blige
Eight-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, rapper and actress Mary J. Blige rose to prominence with her debut album, “What's The 411?” (1992), which went triple-platinum and spawned the No. 1 R&B hits “You Remind Me” and “Real Love.” Nicknamed the Queen of Hip Hop/Soul, Blige, who once worked as a Directory Assistance operator, continued to make a name for herself in the music industry with such successful albums as “My Life” (1994), “Share My World” (1997), “Mary” (1999), “No More Drama” (2001) and “Love & Life” (2003). Her seventh studio album, “The Breakthrough,” (2005) garnered the multi-faceted Blige three of her Grammy Awards and is noted for producing the Grammy-winning single “Be Without You.” She collected the rest of her Grammy Awards for the songs “I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By” (1996), “He Think I Don't Know” (2003), “Whenever I Say Your Name” (2004), “Never Gonna Break My Faith” and “Disrespectful” (both 2008). Blige's new album, “Growing Pains” (2007), contains the Grammy nominee “Just Fine.”
As an actress, 5' 6” Blige has appeared in a few TV series, including “The Jamie Foxx Show,” the 2001 movie “Prison Song” and the play “The Exonerated” (2004).
Blige was once named one of VH1's “100 Sexiest Artists” and one of People Magazine's “100 Most Beautiful People.” Prior to marrying her manager Kendu Isaacs in 2003, she was reported to have been in a troubled romance with Jodeci frontman Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey. After the couple split up in 1997, she was linked to singer Case, producer/singer Malik Pendleton and rapper Nas.
Childhood and Family:
Mary Jane Blige was born on January 11, 1971, in the Bronx, New York. Her mother, Cora, is a nurse. She has three siblings: older sister LaTonya, younger sister Jonquell and younger brother Bruce. As a young child, she moved with her family to Savannah, Georgia, and spent some of her early years there before returning to New York at age 5.
Growing up in the Yonkers' Slowbam projects, Mary experienced a rough childhood and found music a rescue. She became interested in hip-hop sounds and began singing after listening to her mother's favorites like Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway. By the time she was teen, Mary had showed off her talent in a number of churches and school talent shows.
After having a long-running turbulent affair with Jodeci frontman Cedric “K-C,” Hailey in the 1990s, Mary became romantically involved with record industry executive Martin Kendu Isaacs in 2000. The couple married on December 7, 2003, in a private ceremony at Mary's home. The party was attended by only 50 guests. Mary cites her husband as helping her clean up her act and helping her overcome her drug and alcohol dependency.
Be Without You
Mary J Blige started singing in her church choir when she was seven years old. She honed in on her craft through solo performances in various churches and school talent shows before eventually signing with Uptown records in 1989. Spotted while recording Anita Baker's “Caught Up in the Rapture” at a karaoke studio in a local mall, the Bronx native kicked off her musical journey with the label as a background singer for Uptown artists like Jeff Redd, Father MC and Grand Puba. In 1992, Blige emerged as a recording artist with the release of her debut album, “What's The 411?” on July 28.
Produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs and some of the top R&B and hip hop men like Tony Dofat, Dave “Jam” Hall, DeVante Swing and Mark Morales and Cory Rooney, “What's The 411?” raced up the Billboard 200 albums chart and landed at No. 6. Its lead single, “You Remind Me,” rose at No. 1 on the R&B singles chart and became a Top 30 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was followed by the second single, “Real Love,” which was also a No. 1 hit and became Blige's first Top 10 Hot 100 single. Both “You Remind Me” and “Real Love” received gold certification from RIAA. By the end of 1993, “What's The 411?” which also spawned the hits “Reminisce,” a cover of Rufus's “Sweet Thing” and “Love No Limit,” had gone triple-platinum and won Blige several honors, including a Soul Train Music for Best Album By A Female Artist and a New York Music award. The success subsequently put the artist on the map.
“My Life,” Blige's sophomore effort, hit the music stores on November 29, 1994. Producing such popular singles as “Be Happy,” a cover of Rose Royce's 1976 hit “I'm Going Down,” which marked her first top 20 hit in the U.K., “You Bring Me Joy” and “I Love You,” rose to No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 200 and became the Hip-Hop artist's next triple-platinum record. The album also brought Blige a Billboard Music for Best R&B Album, a Soul Train Music for Best Album by a Solo Female Artist and a 1996 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album.
Outside of her album, Blige worked on several other projects. She recorded a cover of Aretha Franklin's “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for the soundtrack to the FOX series “New York Undercover,” and the song “Everyday It Rains” for the soundtrack to the hip-hop biopic “The Show.” She also teamed up with Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton on the Babyface produced “Not Gon' Cry,” which was included in the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack. The song peaked at No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, went platinum and gave Blige her next Grammy nomination. It was her collaboration with Method Man in the song “I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By” that brought Blige a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Blige launched her third studio album, “Share My World,” on April 22, 1997. The album burned up the Billboard 200 Album charts and landed at No. 1, marking Blige's first album to do so. It also became her third No. 1 R&B Album and her first U.K. top 40 album. Thanks to such hits as “Love Is All We Need” and “I Can Love You,” “Share My World” eventually earned 4X platinum certification and won Blige a Grammy nomination in the category of Best R&B Album in addition to an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Album and a Lady Of Soul Award for Best Album By A Solo Artist.
A live album called “The Tour” followed in 1998 before Blige released the album “Mary” on August 17, 1999. Also a No. 1 R&B Album hit, it collected such honors as a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album, a Soul Train Music Award for Album Of The Year By A Solo Female Artist and a Lady of Soul Music Award for R&B/Soul Album Of The Year Solo. “All that I Can See,” a single composed and produced by fellow singer/songwriter Lauryn Hill, received a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Two years later, Blige resurfaced with the critically acclaimed album “No More Drama.” Released on August 28, 2001, it debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop album chart, rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Pop album chart and sold over 3 million copies. Some popular singles released from the albums are the Dr. Dre-produced “Family Affair,” which won a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “Dance for Me,” and the title track “No More Drama.” Blige earned another Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. For her work in “He Think I Don't Know,” one of the four new tracks added to the re-release of “No More Drama,” Blige netted a 2003 Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
For her next album, “Love & Live,” Blige was reunited with mentor Sean “Puffy” Combs. It marked their first collaboration since the 1994 album “My Life.” Released on August 26, 2003, on Geffen Records, the album became her second album to top the Billboard Hot 200 and was certified platinum. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album and the song “Ooh!” earned a nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Blige won a Grammy for “Whenever I Say Your Name,” a duet sung with Sting.
In December 2005, Blige attracted attention with the release of “The Breakthrough,” a seventh studio album that featured collaborations with a number of artists, including Rodney Jerkins, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Bryan Michael Cox, 9th Wonder, Cool and Dre, and Dre & Vidal. It rose to No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, and sold more than 700,000 copies in the first week of its release, an accomplishment that made Blige the first R&B solo female artist to do so in the history of SoundScan. So far, it has sold over three million pieces in the United States and more than seven million pieces throughout the world. For her work, Blige received extensive recognition, including two American Music Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards and eight Grammy nominations. She won two Grammys for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Female Vocal Performance for the lead single “Be Without You” and another Grammy for Best R&B Album for “The Breakthrough.” In addition to the Grammy-winning song “Be Without You,” which peaked at No.1 on the R&B singles chart and stayed there for 15 consecutive weeks, the album also consists of the singles “Enough Cryin',” which went gold in Australia, and “Take Me as I Am,” a No. 3 hit on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
After a 2006 live album called “My Collection of Love Songs” and the compilation albums “Mary J. Blige & Friends” and “Reflections - A Retrospective” (both also 2006), Blige launched the album “Growing Pains” on December 18, 2007. It rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and the Billboard R&B Album charts and includes such tracks as “Work That,” “Stay Down” and “Just Fine,” from which Blige netted a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. She won a 2008 Grammy in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the Chaka Khan duet “Disrespectful.” Also at the 2008 Grammy Awards Gala, she picked up a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” a song she recorded with Aretha Franklin and The Harlem Boys Choir for the 2006 movie “Bobby.”
Mary J. Blige has also branched out into acting. She made her acting debut in a 1998 episode of “The Jamie Foxx Show” titled “Papa Don't Preach,” in which she played a clergyman's daughter, Ola Mae. She next appeared in the 2001 movie “Prison Song,” portraying Mrs. Butler, and in episodes of “Strong Medicine” (2001) and “Ghost Whisperer” (2007). She was also seen in the off-Broadway play “The Exonerated” (2000) and is set to star in a biopic film about Nina Simone.
Grammy: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, “Disrespectful,” 2008
Grammy: Best Gospel Performance, “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” 2008
Soul Train: Best R&B Soul Album - Female, “The Breakthrough,” 2007
Grammy: Best R&B Album, “The Breakthrough,” 2007
Grammy: Best Female R&B Performance, “Be Without You,” 2007
Grammy: Best R&B song, “Be Without You,” 2007
Billboard Music: Hot 100 Airplay Song of the Year, “Be Without You,” 2006
Billboard Music: Female R'n'B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, 2006
Billboard Music: R'n'B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, 2006
Billboard Music: R'n'B/Hip-Hop Songs Artist of the Year, 2006
Billboard Music: R'n'B/Hip-Hop Album Artist of the Year, 2006
Billboard Music: R'n'B Hip-Hop Album of the Year, “The Breakthrough,” 2006
Billboard Music: R'n'B/Hip-Hop Song of the Year, “Be Without You,” 2006
Billboard Music: R'n'B/Hip-Hop Song Airplay of the Year, “Be Without You,” 2006
Billboard Music: Videoclip of the Year, “Be Without You,” 2006
American Music: Favorite R&B/Soul Female, 2006
American Music: Favorite R&B/Soul Album, “The Breakthrough,” 2006
Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop: Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Airplay, “Be Without You,” 2006
Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop: Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Song, “Be Without You,” 2006
Grammy: Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals (shared with Sting), “Whenever I Say Your Name,” 2004
Grammy: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, “He Think I Don't Know,” 2003
Soul Train Music: Album Of The Year By A Solo Female Artist, “Mary,” 2000
Lady of Soul Music: R&B/Soul Album Of The Year Solo, “Mary,” 2000
American Music: Favorite Soul/R&B Album, “Share My World,” 1998
Lady Of Soul: Best Album By A Solo Artist, “Share My World,” 1998
Grammy: Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need” (with Method Man), 1996
Soul Train Music: Best Album By A Solo Female Artist, “My Life,” 1996
Billboard Music: Best R&B Album, “My Life,” 1995
Soul Train Music: Best Album By A Female Artist, “What's The 411?” 1993
New York Music: “What's The 411?” 1993