Mary J. Blige has come far from the start of her career as a background singer on uptown records in 1989. Blige has been a musical legend since her debut in 1992 with the release of her first album “What’s the 411?” Production for Blige’s debut album began in 1991. Sean Combs, a 21-year-old A&R executive at Uptown Records, became her executive producer. Andre Harrell, Combs’s supervisor, named Blige the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.”
Blige’s album created a new era and genre of R&B music. Her raw and urban sound was original and proved durable when compared next to big voiced icons Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
Her east coast hip hop, urban city influence became opened the floodgates for other artists to copy cat. “What’s the 411?” sold 3 million copies.
After her initial success, Blige recorded her second album, “My Life.” With combined sales of more than 5 million albums and singles from her debut album, Blige was the best selling female artist on the Uptown label. Unlike “What’s the 411?” Blige co-wrote a large amount of the material, basing it on her personal life.
In its first week, “My Life” debuted at No. 1 on the top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart for eight consecutive weeks. The album only confirmed Blige as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” and today is still regarded as one of Blige’s best albums.
In spite of her success and growing fame, Blige admitted she was dealing with long time battles with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression. Blige involved herself in several outside projects, including recording a soundtrack for the FOX series “New York Undercover.”
Blige is credited with influencing the musical marriage of hip hop and R&B. She was ranked 80th on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artist of All Time, listed as one of the 50 most influential R&B singers by Essence magazine.
Blige has nine No. 1 albums on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart, which is a record among female artists. She is currently the only artist with Grammys in R&B, rap, pop and gospel genres.
Just released on Dec. 2 is Blige’s new album “The London Sessions.” The New York local headed to London where artist such as Amy Winehouse and Adele, have produced some of the greatest present day soul music. Featured on the album are collaborations with British artist; Disclosure, Sam Smith, Emeli Sandé, also Jimmy Napes, Naughty Boy and Sam Romans.
In a matter of only 30 days, Blige produced in London’s RAK Studios, 12 songs mixed of upbeat pop tempos and classic soul with a British flair. The album opens with the track Therapy.
“Why would I spend the rest of my days unhappy? Why would I spend the rest of this year alone? When I can go therapy. When I can therapy. When I can go therapy two times a day.”
This three and a half minute track transitions into the track “Doubt,” a gospel inspired single.
Blige kicks the sorrow aside for the upbeat song, “Right Now,” co-written by Sam Smith. The lyrics of “Right Now” are dedicated to the pain felt by domestic violence, and that she is finished with the games.
“The London Sessions” is far from the albums that made her the icon she is today. However, this album is a direct reflection of her transformations as an artist and as an individual. “Letting Go” seems to be the theme of 2014, and the “Queen of Hip-Hop and Soul” produced a thought-provoking, uplifting album that is sure to inspire.