Mary J. Blige
Over the years and through the tears, Mary J. Blige has been more than just the finest and fullest practitioner of modern R&B. She is the woman who voices what we can only feel. Through her music, Mary acts as both sister confessor and conduit to real emotions and hard fought hurts.
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Once again, as she has done in the past Mary has been looking into the mirror of her soul and putting into measured words the truths she has seen in her reflection. "I have learned something," Mary offers, her tone a wondrous blend of amazement and awareness. "I've learned that we've got to take responsibility for everything that comes out of our mouths.. so.. my focus is on claiming peace and prosperity, trust, patience and love.”
That love: of self of family, of a mate, of friends, of the spirit and of the power of the beat is soulfully evident on Mary J. Blige’s fifth studio triumph No More Drama. The album includes songs and production from such notables Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Missy Elliot, Chucky Thompson, Swizz Beatz, Rockwilder, The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Ron Lawrence, Kenny Flav, Dame Grease and Mary. Special guests include Eve, Hakeem, Missy and Lenny Kravitz. No More Drama is a passionate and purposeful exploration of the heart, soul and body. Like her 1999 Grammy nominated, platinum plus smash Mary album, which drew upon Ms. Blige’s renewed confidence and reinvigorated spirituality, No More Drama is both affirmation and declaration of intent. No More Drama is filled with slice of life truths and sizzling tracks that are both deeply personal and richly universal in scope. "This album is a continuation of a turnaround,” Mary explains, speaking to the changes and growth between then and now. “The Mary album was a clean up. It was about cleaning up around me because I still had debris left around me. And this album? It’s about solidifying and moving even further with the things I’ve learned and the strides I’ve made."
That knowledge is apparent on the potent title track. Written and produced by Jam and Lewis, who have collaborated with Mary since 1993’s Share My World “No More Drama” is a (wo) manifesto of determination, set to a gospel laced mid-tempo track. The song opens with the instrumental theme from the "Young and The Restless" and slowly Mary’s burnished voice makes its impact felt with lyrics like “no more pain, no more drama in my life." It is a resoundingly emphatic track, womanly and wise, and one that touched Mary to her core. ”Jimmy and Terry wrote it without me and when I heard it I was like.. do you have a private detective following me around? Because this song is so where I’m at. This song is demanding that you stay away from my life if you’re going to bring me drama."
Another song seemingly taken from Mary’s diary is “Never Been,” produced and penned by good friend Missy Elliot. Framed by a determined and stately vocal, “Never Been” is a song that touched Mary’s core and speaks to her faith. ”I didn’t have a relationship when I heard “Never Been” but I knew that love was going to come, and it didn’t have to come from a man. It came from 'The Man'.. and God gave me that self love, and from that I was able to draw to even more love.”
Love, on a more romantic level is the muse behind “Flying Away” which was co-written by Mary and her younger brother Bruce (who cowrote several songs on the album.) A soaring incandescent cut, “Flying Away” finds Mary in a lighter than air, amour mode, offering her mate support in the form of lines like “here’s your only chance, call me your sunshine on a rainy day..love is on the way.” “Flying Away” is about being on a trip in many ways because someone is treating me right and I’m treating him right and, well, that’s where I’m at.”
Another place Mary finds herself returning to on No More Drama is the dance floor. Case in point is the thumping rhythm fueled tracks "Family Affair" and “Dance With Me.” Offers Mary, “That’s me when I’m out at the club. I just wanted to be able to dance and have a song where everybody could leave their troubles behind and have a good time. A lot of people don’t know that I like to party and that I like to hang out, not the way I used to," Mary laughs, alluding to her wilder youth, “but I do like to get my dance on.”
Mary gets her dance on and allows her fans to join her party on several cuts that feature collaborations with some of the shining lights in hip hop, including The Neptunes, Rockwilder (who kicks in with the insistent “Keep It Moving”) Grammy winner Dr. Dre, (the butt shaking “Family Affair”) and Swizz Beatz who goes for his with the hard core life lesson “Where I’ve Been.” Written by Mary and boasting a guest rap from Eve, “Where I’ve Been” is brutally honest and ruggedly real; a tale of redemption and salvation with a club savvy and uplifting attitude. "I wanted to let my fans know that Mary, despite of the adversity, is gonna be happy.”
Happy but also attuned to others. Mary's charity work is as much a part of her healing process and her journey as the music she creates. She is seen in anti-drug public service announcements, has worked with various education groups and has helped raise monies for people with AIDS. In the spring of this year Mary received the Rolling Stone Do Something Award for her humanitarian work and she was recently honored with a lifetime service award by 100 Black Men. She also received Rock The Vote's highest honor, the Patrick Lippert Award. Mary continues as the spokeswoman for MAC’s Viva Glam III with all proceeds from the lipstick earmarked to AIDS education and research and her tireless work for People with Aids included an appearance at the United Nation’s AIDS Awareness Day fundraiser. Along with her music and her altruistic outreach, Mary is embarking upon an acting career, She recently did a guest spot on Lifetime’s series "Strong Medicine." “I had fun doing that,” Mary smiles adding that she also sang No More Drama’s “PMS” (produced by Chucky Thompson) on the show. Along with plans to do more acting, Mary is readying the launch of her label and firming up her roster of artists.
Few would have imagined back in 1992, with the explosive debut of What’s the 411, that this young girl from the projects of Yonkers, NY would in less than ten years time become both a multi faceted talent and a template for contemporary R&B. That she would release one live album, four studio albums, see them go to the top of the charts, earn numerous industry awards and be able to bring her idiosyncratic brand of soul to audiences worldwide and cut across race and genre boundaries in the process. On TV, on radio, on CD, in the clubs, the streets, and the bedroom, the honest and humane songs of Mary J. have blossomed into modern classics, and she, in return, reigns as the undisputed Queen of Hip Hop Soul. She was crowned that back in 1992 and throughout the course of her career, from the brilliant My Life through the powerful Share My World, to the triumphant Mary to No More Drama’s blend of prayer and partying, Mary has reclaimed her rights to that crown again and again.
Ask Mary what she wants No More Drama to convey and she thinks for a bit. “I’d like people to be entertained but I’d like them to hear what I’m saying, too. But if it doesn’t grab you right away, cool. Just dance to it. Just feel it until you are ready to hear what I have to say .. and then what ever happens will happen."
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