Interview by Shelia M. Goss
Rappers want to collab with her, singers want to be like her and legends just praise her. After almost 15 years in the game, Mary J Blige is still the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. No other songstress has married the worlds of hip-hop and R&B quite like MJB.
Musically, her latest album, The Breakthrough, is just that. Mary has traded in her ballads of misery and heartache for love and thanksgiving proving whether backed by Diddy or U2, Maryís honesty and rawness in her delivery connects to listeners around the world. True to word, The Breakthrough debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and went platinum in less than a week of its release. For Mary, thereís no going back now.
Other music artists have come and gone. Why do you think youíve been able to remain one of the leading ladies in music?
First, I give all the credit and honor to God because I truly believe the humility I [have has] caused things to be or not be - being humble and not even knowing who I was at the time. Making sure everybody on the albums got credit for it and sometimes giving too much away. Also at the end of the day, making sure not to burn bridges or take away from people what they deserve.
What do you want listeners to feel after they listen to The Breakthrough?
At the end of the day none of itís easy. Making the choice to be happy or making the choice to share with people what Iíve shared with people over the years has been a challengeÖOnce people get a whiff of who you are, here comes the trouble. At the end of the day, it takes a lot of courage to bare all that Iíve bared. What I want people to take from The Breakthrough is if I can do what Iím doing right now, we all can do it.
Did you have a lot of creative control with this album?
Yes. I had all the creative control. Every last piece of it: from who I wanted to work with; who I didnít want to work with; who I wrote with; what I wrote about; what songs; what musically was going on the album; what producers, making sure everybody got paid properly, making sure we booked the right studios. I was all in the mix of everything.
Is that the big difference [between] this album [and] your previous ones?
Did you feel any pressure to succeed prior to the release of The Breakthrough?
When the going gets tough, I get tougher. Thereís no fear. I just shake it all off. I say, ĎYou know what. Iím going to do this based on my confidence and where Iím at right now.í I never want to let my fans down ever again. I just want them to be happy. The only way they are going to be happy is knowing whatís going on with me.
What advice would you give someone searching for a real love?
Itís not easy. If youíre asking for real love, real love doesnít come as fluff. It doesnít come as a ďyesĒ man. It doesnít come as someone that wonít challenge you. It comes with someone that will challenge you. It comes with things that you donít even want to agree with, but is good for you. Itís all good. Itís beautiful. Itís fun. Itís hard. Itís hard for women like me - women period. You have to adjust. Get rid of yourself and not be selfish. Itís hardÖreally hardÖat the end of the day, if you can just press through the pain of your own pride and stuff like that, itís not a bad thing.
I read somewhere that you were thinking about playing Nina Simone in an upcoming MTV movie. Have you decided whether or not youíll play the role?
I know that they want me to do it. I want to do it. Iím going to do everything in my power to nail the part. People like Jamie Foxx brought Ray Charles to life; almost like Ray Charles is living. I want to do the same.
Are you thinking about doing any other movie roles?
Scripts are coming in. I just have to have meetings. I have to read the scripts. Iím not going after the typical Ďsheís going to play the drug dealerís wife or drug dealerís girlfriend or struggling mother on welfare.í What I want to do - because this is another art Ė [is] something thatís going to have my people proud. My people would be proud to see me do something like what the ďBest ManĒ represented. It showed Black people positive and working. We have things too. Weíre not just poor black (you know what). My people end up being proud of you because they see youíre not trying to stay stagnant; that you actually want to get ahead.
What are some of your goals for the [year]?
My goals for 2006 is to work hard; go on tour; possibly do a clothing line for usófor women all over the world. But I know itís been really hard for us to find the right jeans or the right thing to fit us properly. I want to really make women happy everywhere and make them feel confident.
Have you corresponded with Lilí Kim since sheís been locked up?
I just wrote her the other day; sent her a letter letting her know that Iím going to be up there soon.
How is she doing?
From what I know and from people that have spoken to her, sheís doing fine.
Iím sure your fans would love to know if you will be going on tour.
I plan on going around April or May.
What kind of advice would you give some of the young female artists such as Keyshia Cole?
Be yourself; whatever that is. Find out who that is. Be careful because they really donít care about all that attitude stuff in the business. What they do care about is the fact that you know who you are and that youíll stand up for what you believe in. All that other stuff they can do without.
Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?
Thank you so much for appreciating the place that Iím in right now; for growing with me; for hanging in there with me. Iím really glad that you guys are happy with this project. Thank you.
Hear new music from Mary, ďEnough CryinĒ
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Shelia M Goss is a freelance writer and the Essence Magazine Best Selling author of "My Invisible Husband" and "Roses are Thorns, Violets are True." Find out more about Shelia at
www.sheliagoss.com and www.askohshelia.blogspot.com
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