Mary Jane Blige (surname pronounced: [[Help:pronunciation|/blaɪʒ/]]) (born January 11, 1971) is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, and actress who has sold more than forty million albums worldwide. Blige is a Golden Globe nominated singer and grammy award winning R&B superstar. She has received over twenty-six Grammy Award nominations for her work, winning eight, and has been awarded the World Music Legends Award for combining hip hop and soul together like no one else during the early 1990s.
Upon signing to Uptown, Blige's early years there were dormant, as the label continued to focus most of its attention on its more established acts. During this time, Blige occasionally did session work as a background singer for her label mates. In 1990, she was introduced as a background singer for Redd, during a performance at the Apollo Theatre. The same year she also sang the hook on "I'll Do 4 U" by rapper and label mate Father MC, appearing in the concert-themed music video of the same name; In 1991, she was spotted on the syndicated show, Showtime at the Apollo, singing back up for Jeff Redd. In early Fall of 1992, Blige guest spotted with Grand Puba with his single, Check It Out. Blige's first national debut appearance was in the summer of 1992 when she appeared on MTV's Yo! MTV Raps performing "What's the 411?" (the title track) with Grand Puba. Mary has a 4 octave vocal range and can hit notes in the baritone range.
On July 28, 1992, Uptown Records released What's the 411?. "You Remind Me", the album's lead-off single, peaked at 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the R&B singles chart that summer. The second single, "Real Love", was released in the fall. It too topped the R&B singles chart, and became Blige's first top ten Hot 100 single, peaking at number seven. Both singles were also certified Gold.
More What's the 411? singles followed into 1993, including "Reminisce", a cover of Rufus's "Sweet Thing", and "Love No Limit". By the end of the year, What's the 411? had sold three million copies. Blige, meanwhile, released a hip hop single "You Don't Have to Worry". She later confessed that, at the time, she believed the title to be nothing more than a marketing tool. The name stems from her previous job as Directory Assistance operator. The album's success spun off What's the 411? Remix, a remix album released in December that was used to extend the life of the What's the 411? singles on the radio into 1994, as Blige recorded her follow up album.
"Be Happy", the album's single, peaked at number 29 and number six on the Hot 100 and &B singles chart, respectively. In early 1995, it was followed up with a cover of Rose Royce's 1976 hit "I'm Going Down", which became her first top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at number 12. Other My Life singles included: "You Bring Me Joy" and "I Love You." Album tracks "Mary Jane (All Night Long)" and "My Life" also received heavy radio play, despite never being officially released as singles apart from the UK, where "Mary Jane (All Night Long)" became Blige's second top 20 hit from the album there. My Life was eventually certified triple platinum. In spite of its success and her growing fame, Blige later admitted that she was simultaneously dealing with long time bouts of drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression, as well as an abusive relationship with then-boyfriend K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci. Also in 1995, Blige involved herself in several outside projects; recording 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 "Everyday It Rains" (co-written by R&B singer Faith Evans) for the soundtrack to the hip hop biopic, The Show. That summer she dueted with rapper Method Man on his song, "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By" (which sampled Marvin Gaye's "You're All I Need to Get By," and for which she won a Grammy award.) Later in the year, she also recorded the Babyface-penned and produced "Not Gon' Cry", for the soundtrack to motion picture Waiting to Exhale. The platinum-selling single rose to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in early 1996, and became her biggest commercial hit at the time. Blige won her first Grammy Award – 'Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group' for her collaboration with Method Man.
Share My World debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart and spawned five hit singles: "Love Is All We Need" (featuring Nas), "I Can Love You" (featuring Lil' Kim), "Everything", "Missing You" (UK only) and "Seven Days." The album became Blige's most commercially successful; certified quadruple platinum in the United States and selling over five million worldwide. In early 1998, Blige won an American Music Award for "Favorite Soul/R&B Album." That summer she embarked on the Share My World Tour, which resulted in a Gold-certified live album released later that year, simply titled The Tour. The album spawned one single, "Misty Blue."
On December 14, 1999, the album was re-released as a double-disc set. The second disc was enhanced with the music videos for the singles "All That I Can Say" and "Deep Inside", and also included two bonus tracks: "Sincerity" (featuring Nas and DMX) and "Confrontation" (a collaboration with hip hop duo Funkmaster Flex & Big Kap originally from their 1999 album The Tunnel). The Mary album was critically praised, becoming her most nominated release to date, and was certified double platinum (moving almost two million in sales.) It, however, wasn't as commercially successful as Blige's prior releases, even though all of the singles: "All That I Can Say", "Deep Inside", "Your Child", and "Give Me You" performed considerably on radio. In the meantime, MCA used the album to expand Blige's demographic into nightclub market, as club-friendly dance remixes of the Mary singles were released. The club remix of "Your Child" peaked at number-one hit on the Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart in October 2000.
In 2001, a Japan-only compilation, Ballads, was released—featuring what was considered the best of Blige's ballad material, including a cover of Stevie Wonder's Overjoyed, her previous recordings of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and Dorothy Moore's "Misty Blue."
Though the album sold nearly two million copies in the U.S., MCA was underwhelmed by its sales, and subsequently repackaged and re-released the album on January 29, 2002. The No More Drama re-release featured a new album cover, deleted three of the songs from the original track listing, while adding two brand-new songs—one of which was the fourth single and top twenty Hot 100 hit "Rainy Dayz", (featuring Ja Rule), plus two remixes; one of the title track, serviced by Puff Daddy and the single version of "Dance for Me" featuring Common. The album sold another million-plus units in the U.S. and five million worldwide. Blige won a Grammy for 'Best Female R&B Vocal Performance' for the song "He Think I Don't Know."
On July 22, 2002, MCA released Dance for Me, a collection of club remixes of some of her past top hits including the Junior Vasquez remix of "Your Child", and the Thunderpuss mix of "No More Drama." This album was also released in a limited edition double pack 12" vinyl for DJ-friendly play in nightclubs.
Despite the album debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 and becoming Blige's fourth consecutive UK top ten album, Love & Life's lead-off single, the Diddy-produced "Love @ 1st Sight" (which featured a cameo by Method Man), barely cracked the top ten on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, while altogether missing the top twenty on the Hot 100 (although peaking inside the UK top twenty). The following singles, "Ooh!", "Not Today" (featuring Eve), "Whenever I Say Your Name" (a duet with Sting on the international re-release) and "It's a Wrap" fared worse. Although the album was certified platinum, it became Blige's lowest-selling and biggest commercial disappointment to date. Critics and fans alike largely panned the disc, citing a lack of consistency and noticeable ploys to recapture the early Blige/Combs glory. Blige and Combs reportedly struggled and clashed during the making of this album, and again parted ways upon the completion of it.
The lead-off single, "Be Without You", peaked at number three on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, while peaking at number one on the R&B chart for a record-setting fifteen consecutive weeks; it remained on the chart for over sixteen months. "Be Without You" also found success in the UK, although peaking in the lower end of the top forty, it became Blige's longest charting single on the UK Singles Chart until "One" was released and remains her second longest charting single to date. The album produced three more singles including two more top five R&B hits—"Enough Cryin'", which features Blige's alter ego Brook-Lynn (as whom she appeared on the remix to Busta Rhymes's "Touch It" in 2006), and "Take Me as I Am", which samples Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Garden of Peace". Blige's duet with U2 on the cover of their 1992 hit, "One" gave Blige her biggest hit to date in the UK, peaking at number two on the UK Singles Chart eventually being certified one of the forty highest-selling singles of 2006. The success of The Breakthrough won Blige nine Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, two BET Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, and a Soul Train Award. She also received eight Grammy Award nominations at the 2007 Grammy Awards, the most of any artist that year. "Be Without You" was nominated for both "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year". Blige won three: "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance", "Best R&B Song" (both for "Be Without You"), and "Best R&B Album" for The Breakthrough. Blige completed a season sweep of the "big three" major music awards, having won the American Music Awards in November 2006, the Billboard Music Awards in December 2006, and the Grammy Awards in February 2007.
On December 12, 2006, a compilation called Reflections - A Retrospective was released. It contained many of Blige's greatest hits and four new songs, including the worldwide lead single "We Ride (I See the Future)". In the UK, however, "MJB da MVP" (which appeared in a different, shorter form on The Breakthrough) was released as the lead single from the collection. The album peaked at number nine in the U.S, selling over 170,000 copies in its first week, while reaching number forty in the UK. It has sold more than 1.6 million copies. Also in 2006, Blige recorded a duet with rapper Ludacris, "Runaway Love", which is the third single on his fifth album, Release Therapy. It reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B chart. Blige was featured with Aretha Franklin and The Harlem Boys Choir on the soundtrack to the 2006 motion picture Bobby, on the lead track "Never Gonna Break My Faith". The song was nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.
Blige was featured on 50 Cent's 2007 album, Curtis, in the song "All of Me". In March 2008, she toured with Jay-Z in the Heart of the City tour. They released a song called "You're Welcome". In the same period, cable network BET aired a special on Blige entitled The Evolution of Mary J. Blige, which showcased her career. Celebrities such as Method Man and Ashanti gave their opinions about Blige and her music. Blige is currently featured on singles by Big Boi, and Musiq Soulchild.
Blige also went on tour in Europe in support of Growing Pains, her first European tour in two years. A tour of Australia and New Zealand was scheduled for June but was postponed due to "weariness from an overwhelming tour schedule" and then eventually canceled entirely .
Blige is currently touring with Robin Thicke.
In 2000, Blige began a relationship with record industry executive Martin Kendu Isaacs (known simply as "Kendu"), who is now her manager. Blige has also credited Isaacs for helping her overcome her addictions to drugs and alcohol. The two were married on December 24th, 2003 in a small private ceremony at Blige's home attended by 50 guests (none of whom were media).
On March 27th 2008 it was reported that Mary J. Blige, along with her husband bought a 12.3 million dollar house, with a movie theater and a basketball court.
Mary J. Blige was among the celebrities listed as People Magazines 100 Most Beautiful People.
She has an elder sister named Latonya Blige-DaCosta, a soul and gospel singer who had been her manager before Kendu and who is previously rumoured to have worked in the porn-film industry, and a younger half-brother Bruce Miller by her mother Cora Blige. She was born in New York City - Bronx, daughter of Jazz musician Thomas Blige and the nurse Cora Blige. After her father left the family when Mary was four years old, the family relocated from Bronx to crime-prone Southwest Yonkers, into a social Projects flat.
On May 9, 2008, the Mary J. Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now, Inc. (FFAWN) was announced at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers. According to the foundation's website, "FFAWN is an organization founded by Mary J. Blige to inspire women from all walks of life to reach their individual potential. Through scholarships, grants, and programs that foster strong self-esteem, career development, and personal growth, FFAWN is intended to help women gain the confidence and skills they need to achieve success. FFAWN will initially focus its efforts in Yonkers and surrounding communities in Westchester and then expand its scope to include the Greater New York area and, eventually, the entire country."