Mary J. Blige is the undeniable Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Her voice is the ingrained remix to a male dominated genre: she is the soul to hip-hop. Before Badu, Jill Scott, Floetry, and the crop of neo-soul crooners came along to balance out the scales, MJB was all we needed. In a career spanning two decades, when Blige blesses a track it remixes the whole genre. As with any true artist, to follow MJB’s discography and collaborations is to see a portfolio of snapshots capturing the urban identity exactly as it was within any brownstone and on any block.
Mary J. Blige is an artist whose artistry supersedes the remix. Yes, the remix of “You Remind Me” featuring Nice and Smooth is solid, but when she blesses a hip hop recording with her voice, the track approaches the stratosphere. In fact, the synergy of many of Mary’s collaborations with hip hop’s finest have, and continue to be a standard for what remixers attempt but in many cases fall short of creating, and in one special case, is the sound none will ever encapsulate.
Before Jay-Z thanked the Roc Boys and customers, he called on Mary J to translate his unknockable hustle;
I’m takin out this time, to give you a piece of my mind (cause you can’t knock the hustle). Who do you think you are? Baby one day you’ll be a star.
Just as Hov is the block – that hard concrete that sits right above the streets – Mary J is the rose that creeps up through the cracks, highlighting the beauty behind the beats. Mary J’s soul transcends beefing battlegrounds and geographical barriers, and has remixed sounds from Brooklyn to the Island to Atlanta; her hustle: unknockable.
Blige’s bars dig deep – even in the midst of the assumed substanceless Capital of Crunk. Atlanta brought Gucci, Shawty Lo, Plies, Franchize, Youngbloodz, Lil’ Jon, yo patna n dem, and with them brought a variety of honeys and hofessionals. Mary remixed the female face of hip-hop with killer collaborations alongside two of Atlanta’s finest: Ludacris and T.I. For every one of Luda’s hoes gone low – regardless of area code – is a story behind how she got there; on Runaway Love, Blige and Bridges gave the voice behind the veneer of the “just any video vixen.”
Mary’s collaborative magnum opus – the track that remixed true love’s tone:
This is a remix, this is beyond explanation as to why – it brought the block back to basics, and brought the rawest grit of the New York City soul that pumps lifeblood through hip-hop.
Mary is the voice of the double-down don diva, ride or die royalty. Mary is the female soul of hip-hop, when Common came close: it was because he loves h.e.r. still.