Mary Jane Blige (born January 11, 1971), also known as Mary J. Blige, is an American singer, producer, songwriter, actress, and rapper. A recipient of nine Grammy Awards (and 29 nominations) and many other honors, Blige has recorded eight multi-platinum albums. Blige received the World Music Legends Award for combining hip hop and soul in the early 1990s.
Production for Blige's debut album began in 1992, with Sean "Puffy" Combs, who was at the time an A&R executive at Uptown who oversaw the project. On July 28, 1992, Uptown Records released “What's the 411?.” "You Remind Me," the album's first single, peaked at #1 on the R&B singles chart that summer. The second single, "Real Love," was released in the fall. It too topped the R&B singles chart, and became Blige's first Top 10 Hot 100 single, peaking at #7. Both singles were certified gold for their sales volume. By the end of the year, “What's the 411?” had sold three million copies.
On November 29, 1994, Uptown Records released Blige's second album, “My Life “which was again overseen by Combs. "Be Happy," the album's first single, peaked at #29 and #6 on the Hot 100 and R&B singles chart, respectively. In early 1995, it was followed up with a cover of Rose Royce's 1976 hit "I'm Goin' Down", which became her first Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at #12. "Mary Jane (All Night Long)" and "My Life" received heavy radio play, despite never being officially released as singles. “My Life” was eventually certified triple platinum.
In 1996, she recorded the Babyface-penned and produced "Not Gon' Cry," for the soundtrack to the motion picture “Waiting to Exhale.” The platinum-selling single rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in early 1996, and became her biggest commercial hit at the time. In December of that year, “My Life,” was certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA. "Not Gon' Cry" gained Blige her third Grammy Award nomination and her first for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Blige won her first Grammy Award – Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for her collaboration with Method Man on the 1996 platinum certified selling single, "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need to Get By.” “My Life” was also nominated for Best R&B Album.
On April 22, 1997, MCA Records released Blige's third album, “Share My World.” By now she and Combs had dissolved their working relationship. “Share My World” debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and spawned five hit singles: "Love Is All We Need" (featuring Nas), "I Can Love You" (featuring Lil' Kim), "Everything," "Missing You" (UK only) and "Seven Days." The album became Blige's most commercially successful selling three million copies in the U.S.
On August 17, 1999, Blige's fourth album, titled “Mary” was released. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and atop the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for three weeks. “Mary” received a double platinum certification in the US. "All That I Can Say," "Deep Inside," "Your Child" and "Give Me You" were the album’s commercial singles in the U.S.
On August 28, 2001, MCA released Blige's fifth studio album, “No More Drama.” The album's first single, "Family Affair" (produced by Dr. Dre) became her first #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for six consecutive weeks. It was followed by two further hit singles, the European only single "Dance for Me" featuring Common and the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-produced title track. “No More Drama” has sold over 3,200,000 in the United States alone to date.
On August 26, 2003, Blige's sixth album “Love & Life” was released on Geffen Records. Blige heavily collaborated with her one-time producer Sean Combs for this set. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and became Blige's fourth consecutive U.K. Top 10 album. “Love & Life's” lead-off single, the Diddy-produced "Love @ 1st Sight", which featured Method Man, reached the Top 10 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The following singles, "Ooh!", "Not Today" featuring Eve, "Whenever I Say Your Name" featuring Sting on the international re-release, and "It's a Wrap" were also featured. The album was eventually certified Platinum by the RIAA. To date the album has sold over 1,000,000 copies in the U.S. and over 2,000,000 copies worldwide. The album was nominated for the Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 46th Grammy Awards.
Geffen Records released Blige's seventh studio album, “The Breakthrough” on December 20, 2005. It debuted at #1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Selling 727,000 copies in its first week, it became the biggest first-week sales for an R&B solo female artist in SoundScan history, the fifth largest first-week sales for a female artist, and the fourth largest debut of 2005. Since its release, “The Breakthrough” has sold over three million copies in the U.S. and over seven million copies worldwide, becoming one of the five best-selling albums of 2006. The lead-off single, "Be Without You", peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, while peaking at #1 on the R&B chart for a record-setting fifteen consecutive weeks and it remained on the chart for over sixteen months. The success of “The Breakthrough” won Blige nine Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, two BET Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, and a Soul Train Award. She received eight Grammy Award nominations at the 2007 Grammy Awards, the most of any artist that year. Blige won three: "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance," "Best R&B Song" (both for "Be Without You"), and "Best R&B Album" for “The Breakthrough.”
Blige's eighth studio album, “Growing Pains,” was released on December 18, 2007, debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 and at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In its second week, the album climbed to #1, making it Blige's fourth #1 album. The lead single, "Just Fine," peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. "Just Fine" was nominated for the Grammy Award for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance", and Blige won "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals" for the Chaka Khan duet "Disrespectful" (featured on Khan's album “Funk This”) which Blige wrote.
Blige's ninth studio album, “Stronger with Each Tear,” was released on December 21, 2009, debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 and at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling 332,000 units in its first week of release. The lead single, "The One," which features Canadian rapper Drake, was released for airplay in June 2009, and was officially and digitally released in July 2009, peaking at #63 on the Hot 100. The second single from “Stronger with Each Tear,” "I Am," was released in December 2009 and reached #55 on the Hot 100.
To date, Blige has sold over 50 million albums and 15 million singles. Blige has sold more than 35 million records in the U.S. alone.