Mary J. Blige (born 11.1971)
Mary J. Blige is an American singer / rapper and songwriter. She has sold over 40 million records.
Mary J. Blige: Breakthrough
In 1988, Mary J. Blige recorded a cover of 'Caught Up In the Rapture' by Anita Baker, in a shopping mall booth. The tape made its way to the president of Uptown Records, Andre Harrell. In 1989, Mary was signed to the label and became its first female artist.
Initially, Blige acted as a backing singer for Uptown's more established artists. In 1991, she performed on Showtime at the Apollo, singing with Jeff Redd. In 1992, Blige featured in her first national appearance, performing with Grand Puba on Yo! MTV Raps.
Mary J. Blige's debut album was overseen by Sean 'Puffy' Combs, an A&R executive for Uptown Records at the time.
What's the 411? was released in 1992. Its debut single, 'You Remind Me' reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Its follow-up 'Real Love' became Blige's first top 10 hit, making it to number seven. What's the 411? spawned What's the 411? Remix, which was released whilst Mary worked on her second album.
Mary J. Blige: In the Limelight
My Life was released in 1994, again under the watchful eye of Sean Combs, who had also taken on the role of Blige's manager.
'Be Happy' was the first single from My Life and reached number 29. Next was a cover of Rose Royce's 'I'm Going Down', which was Blige's first major UK hit, reaching number 12.
Suge Knight, signed Mary to Suge Management as a consultant and in 1995, she became involved in a number of outside projects, such as recording a cover of '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman' for the FOX network TV series New York Undercover. She also worked with Method Man on the Grammy Award-winning 'I'll Be There For You / You're All I Need to Get By'. Early in 1996, she released 'Not Gon' Cry', written by Babyface, for the film Waiting to Exhale.
In 1997, Share My World, Blige's third album, was released. A number of producers had taken Sean Combs' place, including R. Kelly and Jimmy Jam. The album debuted at number one in the US and launched five hit singles, including 'Love Is All We Need' (featuring Nas), 'I Can Love You' (featuring Lil' Kim) and 'Everything'. The accompanying tour gave birth to the Gold-certified live album, The Tour.
Blige's fourth album, Mary, was released in 1999. The album featured a number of famous guests, including Elton John (on 'Deep Inside'), Lauryn Hill (on 'All That I Can Say') and Aretha Franklin (on 'Don't Waste Your Time').
In 2001, No More Drama was released, spawning her first number one single, the Dr. Dre produced 'Family Affair'. The album sold almost two million copies but her label, MCA, repackaged the album with a new cover and track-listing, including 'Rainy Dayz', featuring Ja Rule. The song 'He Think I Don't Know' won Blige a 'Best Female R&B Vocal Performance' Grammy.
Love & Life, released in 2003, saw Mary working with Combs again. The album debuted at number one in the US but its lead single, 'Love @ 1st Sight' received a disappointing response, as did her duets with Sting and Eve.
The Breakthrough (2005) featured will.i.am, Dre & Vidal and Bryan Michael Cox and has sold over seven million copies across the globe. Her duet with U2 on their song 'One' became Blige's biggest hit in the UK.
In 2006, Blige released a compilation entitled Reflections - A Retrospective as well as a duet with Ludacris, 'Runaway Love', for his album Release Therapy. She also appeared with Aretha Franklin on the soundtrack to Bobby, singing 'Never Gonna Break My faith', which won a Grammy for 'Best Gospel Performance'.
Growing Pains (2007), was Blige's eighth studio album. The Grammy-nominated 'Just Fine' saw a return to the UK charts for Blige. 'Work That' was used to accompany an iTunes commercial.
In 2008, Mary J. Blige embarked on a tour with Jay-Z and they released a duet, 'You're Welcome'.