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Mary J. Blige Biography

Mary J. Blige Biography

In 1988, Blige recorded an impromptu cover of Anita Baker's "Rapture" at a recording booth in a local shopping mall. Her mother's boyfriend at the time later played the cassette for Jeff Redd, a recording artist and A&R runner for Uptown Records. Redd then sent it to the president and CEO of the label, Andre Harrell. Harrell met with Blige and, in 1989, she was signed to the label; becoming the company's youngest and first female artist.

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; Blige also appeared in the concert-themed music video, in the role of a back-up singer.

Production for Blige's debut album began in 1991, with Sean "Puffy" Combs (then, a fledgling A&R executive at Uptown) largely overseeing the project. Also enlisted were some of the top R&B and hip-hop producers of the time, among them were Tony Dofat, Mark Morales and Mark C. Rooney, Dave "Jam" Hall, and DeVante Swing.

On July 28, 1992, Uptown Records released What's the 411?. "You Remind Me", the album's lead-off single, peaked at number twenty-nine 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 two million copies. Blige, meanwhile, was being christened as 'The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.' and released a Hip-Hop single around 1993, 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 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.

On December 20, 2005, Geffen Records released Blige's seventh studio album, The Breakthrough. The album debuted at number one on both the Billboard 200 Albums and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Selling 727,000 copies in its first week, it became the biggest first-week sales for an R&B solo female artist in SoundScan history, the fifth largest first-week sales for a female artist, and the fourth largest debut of 2005.

For the album, Blige collaborated with Rodney Jerkins, will.i.am, Bryan Michael Cox, 9th Wonder, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Raphael Saadiq, Cool and Dre, and Dre & Vidal. 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 charts for a record-setting fifteen consecutive weeks. It would remain on Billboard's Hip-Hop/R&B chart for over 16 months. The album's second single Enough Cryin', peaked at number thirty-two on the Billboard Hot 100, and rose to number two on the R&B chart. The album also included a duet with U2 on the cover of their 1992 hit, "One", which was released as a single in the UK, and gave Blige her biggest hit to date in the country, peaking at number two on the UK Singles Chart. On December 31, 2006, "One" was announced by BBC Radio 1 to be the thirty-fifth highest-selling single of 2006 in the UK.  The latest single from The Breakthrough is "Take Me as I Am", which samples Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Garden of Peace." It peaked at number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Blige appeared on the remix to Busta Rhymes's "Touch It" in 2006, where she performed under an alter ego, named "Brook Lynn." The character is also featured on "Enough Cryin" and "Gonna Breakthrough" on the The Breakthrough.


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