Conservatives of R&B music once shunned hip-hop and viewed it as "music from the gutter." But over time, the hip-hop generation would merge the two genres and create a sub-genre deemed "hip-hop soul" and revolutionize the sound of music. Mary J. Bligehas been regarded as the matriarch of what the hip-hop soul sound, which mixes R&B with boom-bap beats and street-wise swagger.

Under the tutelage of Uptown Records' A&R director Sean "Puffy" Combs, MJB would eventually release her 1992 debut album, 'What's The 411.' The collection was a smash success on the streets as well as on radio and would eventually sell over three million copies in the U.S.

So, when Blige released her second effort, 'My Life,' on Nov. 29, 1994, the expectations were daunting. But she exceeded them and raised the bar by releasing what is, arguably, the defining R&B album of the hip-hop generation.

Recorded during a dark period in Blige's career, the LP served as an audio diary of the Yonkers, N.Y., native's emotional and physical pain. At this time, the singer was battling clinical depression and was reportedly in an abusive relationship with Jodeci singer Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey.

Produced mostly by Chucky Thompson and Puffy, the album featured then up-and-coming lyricist Keith Murray rapping over an interlude that would later become the infamous beat to Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Who Shot Ya.' Add in the soulful covers of classics like Rose Royce's 'I'm Going Down' and Mary Jane Girls' 'All Night Long,' among others, and you have a perfect album that more than stands the test of time.

Being that today marks 20 years since 'My Life' was released in stores, we talked with five music industry veterans and let them share their thoughts and memories regarding Mary J. Blige's noteworthy masterpiece.

  • 5

    Yomi Desalu

    MTV Jams Staff

    Favorite Memory Involving The 'My Life' Album:

    "Well I was a fan from day one; from the Father MC records that she sang on. There was so much anticipation for this album after 'What's The 411' hit; having more cuts on it than Big Daddy Kane's eyebrows. I copped this album on cassette (we're talking '94 here) and played it for a strong 6 months (no lie). I remember sitting on the B train daily, going to and coming from school, zoning out to this record. She was the next big thing on R&B, and her being from NY felt good; it felt right."

    Favorite Song On The Album:

    "Hard to pick just one. But if I had to, then I'd say 'I Never Wanna Live Without You.' You know, this is 94/95, I'm in prime sucker for love season in high school, and a song like this fit right in to where I was (first love mode). And the subtle addition of K-CI on the record really made it complete. Plus, I believe it was the longest song on the record, and like I said I was vibing to this album so much I welcome the songs that lasted longer."

    Favorite Beat On The Album:

    "'You Bring Me Joy.' The record just kicks; it's one of the few uptempo records on the album, which could have made it a negative inclusion, but it's early enough on the record and the order was tailored (in my opinion) to segue from "411" into the new state of MJB (which I thought was one of the dope elements of this project because the flow of an album is so integral).

    The record really had a straight party vibe to it; much like the last album. I think that made it so unique amongst an album full of unrequented love, soul searching and heartache."

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  • 4

    Lelee Lyons (SWV)

    Artist

    Favorite Memory Involving 'My Life':

    "First of all I have to say that I have to be Mary's No. 1 fan :-). As an artist myself, I know that we have a responsibility not only to make music, but to take our fans on a journey through song. No other woman accomplishes that but Mary J. Blige. When 'My Life' hit the world I knew we were in for a treat. Whether you thought you were in the perfect relationship or an abused one, 'My Life' made you look at your situation from another perspective. This album had all the answers to your questions and the solutions to your problem. It was the album for women!!"

    Favorite Song(s) On The Album:

    "My favorite two songs on the 'My Life' album is the title track and 'You Bring Me Joy.' These two songs, especially 'My Life' was really personal for me and I felt Mary's heart as she sang. Being someone who was going though so much at the time,trying to find my way through life and almost ending my life, Mary acted as my life coach and counselor through song. It changed my life forever. From the lines "life can be only what you make it...." and "everything will turn out fine... Yes it will, yes it will..." I was healed:-). 'You Bring Me Joy' was my happy song. It didn't get no better than that."

    Favorite Beat On The Album:

    "I'm from NY and everything about a beat is in the damn head bop lol. My favorite beat is 'You Bring me Joy.' It's just my happy song and Mary is riding the hell outta this track. It's just a great song!"

    A Song From The Album She Wish She Could've Been Featured:

    "I would have loved to feature on 'You Gotta Believe.' In a time where love songs have been downplayed by ratchet, get-to-the-point sex [music], this song made it fun to be in love again. It allowed the woman to reassure her guy and say, "I told you once before, that I love you, and I need you."

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  • 3

    Jon. B

    Artist

    Favorite Memory Involving The Album:

    "My first time hearing 'My Life' I remember thinking, God, thats a beautiful song! What a chord progression Roy Ayers created! Chucky Thompson flipped it and made it fresh and new with more bottom.

    Mary is straight soul baring, a totally universal record everyone can relate to."

    Favorite Song On The Album:

    "My favorite song on that album is 'My Life' because it expresses ones hope to relate with the rest of the world. It has a profound beginning, starting off with...'Life can be only what you make it.'"

    Favorite Beat On The Album:

    "'You bring me Joy' the groove of this record is so timeless. It really shows how innovative Barry White was as a Producer.

    Once again have to give Diddy and Chucky Thompson the cred for building on top off the o.g. "Extacy" record. My favorite part of this song is the tribal vocals at the beging ayyy ayyy ayyy!"

    One Song From The Album You Wish You Could've Been Featured On:

    I would have loved to be featured on 'I Love You.' I been singing along to that song so long now that song has become my 7-year-old daughter's favorite song on that album. I love singing harmonies with what she does. Thank you Mary J Blige! Happy 20th of 'MY LIFE'! ALL MY LOVE AND RESPECT THANK YOU FOR INSPIRING ME!"

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  • 2

    Kathy Iandoli

    Journalist

    Favorite Memory Involving The Album:

    "'My Life' was released around the time I started high school, so it literally became the soundtrack to my early high school existence. We would play the album on CD boomboxes in the cafeteria, and my one friend Michelle would get on the table in her Catholic school uniform and mimic the dance choreography move-for-move from the 'You Bring Me Joy' video. When the nuns would look at her horrified, she would flash her boxers under her skirt at them. Michelle also did one hell of a Bizzy Bone impersonation from '1st Of Tha Month,' but that's for a whole different album anniversary piece."

    Favorite Song On The Album:

    "Mine will always be 'I Love You.' That song just cuts to the core, man. And that Smif-N-Wessun remix? What? It still gives me so much life to this day. I would even spin that remix when I worked at Fat Beats ten years after 'My Life' dropped and gave no f---s who thought it was outdated."

    Favorite Beat On The Album:

    "'I Love You' obviously. That Isaac Hayes sample from 'Ike's Mood I' is just so legendary, and it provides this certain level of emotion that when backed by Mary's voice you just feel her pain. It's seriously the most beautiful musical break up letter ever."

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  • 1

    Rob Markman

    Journalist

    Favorite Memory Involving 'My Life':

    "I didn't buy 'My Life' when it dropped, my mother did. It was cool growing up because me and my mom used to listen to a lot of the same stuff. I remember she used to walk around the house singing Biggie's "Everyday Struggle" and my friends would come over and say how cool it was that my mom listened to Big.

    So I remember one day I cut school and I had a couple of girls come over the house and I didn't want to play [Notorious] B.I.G. or Wu-Tang [Clan] and I didn't want to play Jodeci because that was too slow. I grabbed my mom's 'My Life' CD and just let it rock and we hung out.

    I forgot to put it back though and definitely got screamed on when she realized it was missing; like Kendrick's pops looking for his dominoes."

    Favorite Song(s) On The Album:

    "My favorite song from 'My Life' is the title track. The way Mary comes in singing "la di da di da" still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up damn near every time I hear it. The song is a real departure from the rest of the album which is driven by R&B melodies over hip-hop beats, but it fits perfectly. Plus, it's one of those songs that can really get you through a tough time, there's been quite a few times I'd throw "My Life" on when I was going through something. Beautiful song."

    Favorite Beat On The Album:

    It's tough to pick a favorite beat from 'My Life.' I guess it would have to be 'K. Murray Interlude,' where Keith Murray was rhyming over what would eventually become the Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Who Shot Ya.' I remember hearing that beat thinking "What the f--- is this?" and "Where is the rest at?" Then when Big dropped 'Who Shot Ya' it was just crazy. Still, it's tough, because damn near every beat on 'My Life' was perfect. As far as actual songs from the album, I have to go with 'I Love You.' A lot of people will mention the Isaac Hayes sample, but I'm an '80s baby, so for me it automatically reminds me of the DJ Hollywood joint. "Shout, shout, extensions played out." That song is classic.

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