Mary J. Blige is no MC, but the 40-year-old songstress means as much to the hip-hop community as any ill spitter does. Dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul after she released her 1992 debut, What’s the 411?, Mary has a connection to rap that runs deep. Her debut album stamped her as an immediate superstar, but it was her sophomore set, 1994’s My Life, that made the Yonkers, New York, native arguably the most beloved singer of today’s R&B.
Over the years, Mary has spent a chunk of her career collaborating with some of rap’s biggest stars. Who could forget the groundbreaking partnership of Method Man and Mary on Meth’s 1995 smash hit “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” or the soulful crooning of MJB on her 1996 collabo with Jay-Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle”? There have also been “911,” with Wyclef (2000); “Rainy Dayz,” featuring Ja Rule (2002); “Runaway Love,” with Ludacris (2006); and dozens more hit records pairing Mary’s rough and rugged, soulful voice with a celebrated MC.
It’s been almost 20 years since fans first met Mary J. Blige, and her career has reached legendary status. Although she still makes records with rap superstars, her audience has grown way beyond hip-hop and R&B. Now she makes songs with pop royalty like U2’s Bono and Elton John. She’s also finally working on her 10th LP, My Life 2: The Journey Continues (Act 1) (Matriarch/Geffen).
In honor of Mary’s illustrious career, XXL reached out to 20 of the Queen’s biggest fans, who also happen to be some of hip-hop’s favorite MCs. Here she answers all of their questions, from how she overcame her personal struggles to what it takes to last two decades in the music business. Here’s the 411. —Shaheem Reid
YOUNG JEEZY: How does it feel, after almost 20 years in this business, to still reign as the queen of hip-hop soul?
Mary J. Blige: It feels so good that, after 20 years, I’m still doing what I’m doing. I’m doing me consistently for my fans. I’m touchable to my fans. They can talk to me. They can smile at me.
JADAKISS: Every time we get around you, no matter what you are going through, you’re always in great spirits. On that stage, on that mic, your energy affects people. What motivates you to keep going on that stage, doing so many shows?
My fans motivate me. My life motivates me. I love what I do. I love my job. I love to touch people through my music. My fans want it, so I give it. It’s a gift from God to me that I appreciate it, and I love what I do.
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