Mary J. Blige: Something Bout Myself [Excerpt From the November 2011 Issue]

BIRDMAN: I remind my artists that this is a business—this isn’t a party. What’s your key to success and longevity?

My key to success and longevity is understanding that I did not do this by myself. It takes a village to raise a child and a team of people to make any artist look great. There’s a team of people that are making us look great. There’s a team of people…helping us with all the stuff we have to do every day. Then there’s your fans. Without them, none of your records would even be heard. So just staying humble and grounded. Knowing it’s people that help you to get where you are.

LUDACRIS: Which of your songs brings you closest to tears when you perform it?

“My Life” brings me closest to tears…and “No More Drama.” Everybody wants no more drama, but it’s impossible, because it’s everywhere. At least we can make that concession and have less drama.

SHEEK LOUCH: Mary, you’re my homegirl, and you’ve always been supportive of The Lox’s career. I want to know, what are your memories of the first time you took us to Puff Daddy?

All I could think of [was], Puff’s gonna love these guys. I had so much faith because they were so amazingly dope to me. I was happy to go to Puff, who I knew was gonna do something with them. I wanted them to win because they are three of the nicest guys that I know. They’re just talented, and I was excited for them.

WIZ KHALIFA: When you first started out, did you have intentions of changing the game, or were you just singing your heart out?

I had no idea. I was just singing my heart out.

HAVOC: How did you feel when you heard your first record, “You Remind Me,” playing on the radio, and when the song later became a hit?

It felt so good to hear myself on the radio. [When it became a hit,] it felt double good, to know my family and I were going to get out the environment we were in. I was going to get my mother and my family out of the hood.

RICK ROSS: Did you have a feeling that What’s the 411? would be so influential on the sound of hip-hop music when you recorded the album, and what do you think of the album’s impact?

When I recorded What’s the 411?, I had no idea it was gonna shift the whole [sound] from new jack swing to hip-hop soul. I was just singing my heart out. I love to sing, and I was nothing but a hip-hop head from when I was growing up, and I still am that. That’s all I rolled around in my car listening to: Reasonable Doubt and Illmatic and even the Mobb Deep album, that Infamous album. The loops [in hip-hop music] moved me, and I always felt like a rapper who could sing over those beats. I had no idea it would move people the way it did; I just gave them my all.

**FOR MORE OF THIS STORY, PICK UP THE NOVEMBER 2011 ISSUE OF XXL, ON STANDS NOW**