On January 11, 1971, Mary J. Blige was born in Yonkers, NY. Known as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” she entered the music scene in 1992 with her album, “What’s the 411?” Since then, she has released 12 more studio albums, sold over 75 million records worldwide and won nine Grammy Awards. Turning 47 today, Blige continues to inspire us with her heartwarmingly soulful voice, always on-point style and consistently confident swagger.
In her junior year of high school, Blige dropped out in order to pursue a music career. As the story goes, Blige got discovered thanks to a song she recorded at a local mall, Anita Baker’s “Caught Up In The Rapture.” Her mother’s boyfriend at the time shared the recording with an Uptown Records A&R runner, Jeff Redd, who then shared it with the label’s CEO, Andre Harrell. Harrell was blown away by her vocal chops and signed Blige in 1989. She was the youngest, and first female, artist to sign with Uptown Records.
With Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy), as her executive producer, Blige’s released her debut album, “What’s the 411?” on July 28, 1992. With her soulful voice, streetwise hip-hop attitude and relatable stories about love and heartbreak, she received critical acclaim and commercial success. The three-time certified platinum album, which contains the songs “Real Love” and “You Remind Me,” climbed to No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart. In the 1990s, she continued to put out chart-topping albums, including the introspective “My Life” (1994), where she shared her deeply personal struggles with drug addiction, depression and relationships. In 1996, she won her first Grammy Award for “I’ll be There For You/You’re All I Need to Get By,” a duet with Method Man. “Share My World” (1997) became her most commercially successful album, with hit songs including “Love Is All We Need” and “Share My World.” On “Mary” (1999), she departed from her usual hip-hop sound with earthier ballads, like “All That I Can Say,” earning her more award nominations than her three previous albums.
After the turn of the new millennium, Blige had her first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 chart with “Family Affair” (2001) from her fifth album, “No More Drama.” Then, in 2005, Blige recorded her most popular and critically acclaimed album to date, “The Breakthrough.” It sold more than seven million copies worldwide and was nominated for eight Grammy Awards, winning three. Blige continued to put out successful albums, including “Growing Pains” (2007), “Stronger with Each Tear” (2009) and “The London Sessions” (2014).
Forever breaking records and shaking up the entertainment industry, Blige recently achieved the rare double nomination in both acting and singing at the 2018 Golden Globes for her supporting role in “Mudbound” and its song, “Mighty River.” At the Globes, she wore black in solidarity with the #TimesUp movement. In a red carpet interview, Blige shared her own personal experiences with sexual harassment, and voiced her support for her fellow Hollywood artists by saying,
“They’ve been hanging on to these things forever, for God knows how long, and now they’re speaking up and being set free. It’s a beautiful thing for us to see, and for us to support because we need each other in that way. And they’ve suffered.”