Mary J. Blige
Introduction and Early Life:
Mary J. Blige is an American singer-songwriter, actress and record producer whose work spans a variety of genres, including R&B, neo soul and hip hop. Known for her blonde hair and the “bad-girl” image, she earned applause for her soulful, husky voice and is often cited among the most successful female R&B artist of all time. Blige, sometimes called the “queen of hip-hop soul”, sold an estimated 75 million records across the world. She has inspired countless singers of the young generation.
Born “Mary Jane Blige” into a middle-class musical family in The Bronx, New York in 1971, her father was a jazz musician and her mother was a nurse. Her mother’s musical taste would have a profound impact on young Blige (she was a passionate collector of soul and R&B giants such as Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, and Chaka Khan). Blige took singing lessons from her father as a child. Her parents divorced in 1980.
Blige was then raised by her mother and, under her encouragement, sang in the church choir. She dropped out of Roosevelt High School in 1987, at the age of sixteen.
Career and Musical Achievements:
Mary J. Blige rose to prominence at the age of 17 when her impromptu cover of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture” caught the attention of Uptown Records executives in 1988. After signing a contract, she worked as a backup singer until she released her debut album, What’s the 411?, in 1992. Primarily produced by Puff Daddy, the album fused classic soul with hip-hop and urban contemporary rhythm and blues. It spawned six singles and sold more than 3 million units worldwide.
Blige, known for her glamorous but street-tough image in her early career, followed this success with a series of chart-topping hit singles such as “Be Without You” (1994) and “Not Gon’ Cry” (1996). Her raw and gritty sound – an antithesis to the pop leanings of pop divas Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson – influenced a host of contemporaries and later artists. A few of her successful albums include Share My World (1997) and Growing Pains (2008), both of which peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200.
Her 2008 tour with Jay-Z made her one of the most bankable live acts in hip hop. Blige also has had a notable acting career. She appeared in a number of movies, including I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009) and Rock of Ages (2012).
Awards and Accolades:
Mary J. Blige has won numerous awards and accolades in her career, including 4 American Music Awards, 10 Billboard Music Awards, 9 Grammys, and 2 World Music Awards.
Mary J. Blige married manager Kendu Isaacs in 2003. She is a savvy businesswoman who owns a production company, record label and fragrance line.