Mary J. Blige is considered the standard for R&B with her two decades of work, so it's easy to forget she was actually a bit of a risk when she signed with Uptown Records in 1989. Sporting bubble jackets and combat boots, the singer certainly wasn't like the typically refined and glamorous stars of the genre from that time. She never once hid the fact she was Mary from the Yonkers, N.Y. projects.
Her straightforward approach is what makes MJB special. Blige was open about her traumas and drug abuse during her earlier years, and perhaps it was that sort of intensely personal inspiration that led to such passionately sung music. Her warm mix of hip-hop into her R&B stylings and pure talent led to two all-time classic albums, 'What's the 411' and 'My Life.' The more soulful and polished sound of Blige's later years reflected the increasing stability of her personal life. She's been able to maintain that emotional spark in her music despite artistic changes.
To put it simply, Mary J. Blige has always been Mary J. Blige, but even her most dedicated fans may need to be schooled about a thing or two from her past. Check out 25 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Mary J. Blige.
On her 'My Life' album, Keith Murray rhymes over the 'Who Shot Ya?' beat because the original Notorious B.I.G. version was considered to be too violent.
Her passionate performance on 'My Life' has been linked to her tumultuous relationship with JoDeCi's K-Ci. The relationship includes rumors of substance and physical abuse.
At 18, she was the youngest and first female artist to sign to Uptown Records.
She once worked as a directory assistance operator.
MJB was the lead vocalist in her church's choir as a kid.
Led Zeppelin was one of her favorite bands growing up. Blige even performed 'Stairway to Heaven' when she was on 'Oprah.'
Blige was a background vocalist in 1989. She sang the hook on Father MC's forgotten hit, 'I’ll Do 4 U.'
She made her acting debut on 'The Jamie Foxx Show.'
The songstress is one of the only singers to have Grammys in the R&B, Rap, Pop and Gospel categories.
Her husband, record executive Kendu Isaacs, was a driving force in keeping her sober.
After dropping out of high school during her junior year, Blige got her GED in 2010.
Blige's tour rider requests that the name Mrs. Jefferson be used as her alias when she checks into hotels.
She was sadly molested by a family friend when she was 5.
Her mother, Cora Blige, survived a stabbing from her neighbor in 1987.
While plenty of the youth look up to her, Blige has no plans on having any children of her own.
'Rainy Dayz,' a song featured on her 2001 LP, 'No More Drama,' was originally written for TLC. That's why lyrics like "We’re always livin’ so crazy and sexy and cool," which refers to the group's album, 'CrazySexyCool,' found their way on to the song.
The New York native has always been quiet when it comes to explaining that scar under her left eye. Many suspect an incident occurred during her childhood living in the Yonkers projects, which lead to the scar.
Rihanna's hit song 'Umbrella' was originally written with Blige in mind.
She appeared in the Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Big Poppa' and 'One More Chance' videos.
You can thank the soap opera 'The Young and Restless' for inspiring the production on her 2001 song 'No More Drama.'
Foxy Brown and Blige recorded songs for a joint album called 'The Best of Both Girls.' The plans got derailed after Brown lost her hearing.
She was originally tapped to play Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic, which will now star Zoe Saldana as the late singer.
Her track 'You Gotta Believe,' off 'My Life,' features background vocals from Faith Evans.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are known for being New Jack Swing practitioners. Blige actually moved away from that sound when they connected for 'Share My World.'
She shares a birthday with one of the founding fathers of the U.S., Alexander Hamilton.