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British Soul Music Changed My Life Says Mary J Blige

Mary J Blige’s career kicked off in 1992 with the release of her groundbreaking debut LP, What’s The 411?

The album sold over three million copies in the first 18 months earning her the title Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. 15 years later, she’s still going strong.

But it hasn’t all been wine and roses. Blige, 37, has experienced and overcome her fair share of drama: child molestation, drug and alcohol addiction, depression and abusive relationships.

Marriage to record industry executive Martin ‘Kendu’ Isaacs in 2003 has brought some stability into her life and with her sights set firmly on Hollywood, Mary plans to broaden her horizons.

Here she talks about drug addiction and reveals how British singer Caron Wheeler and Jazzi B pioneered her style of music. 

Is it true that hearing British band Soul II Soul inspired you to sing? 

Keep On Moving saved my life. That record just seemed liked it shed some light in my life. It just felt so warm and good. We needed that when we were growing up in the projects. I first heard that song on the radio, and just blasted it. I’m serious. It was our song – a black peoples’ song.

‘During the 1980s we were teenagers and needed something to make us feel better. Every car was blasting that song. Then, However Do You Want Me (Back To Life) came, and it was party time. Caron Wheeler has got to be one of my favorite singers from the UK. Soul II Soul did the hip-hop soul thing before a lot of us were doing it.

Is it inevitable that most high-profile entertainers will experience drink and drug problems at sometime?

‘I’ve had access to alcohol since I was a child; everybody was always drinking and smoking. By the time I was a teenager living in the projects; you walk out in the hallway and you see a crackhead smoking crack. Or one of your girlfriends says: “Try this” and she’s got some coke. Then you’re hooked on coke ‘till your almost 20.

‘You get into the music business; you’ve got all this money; and it becomes easier to get it, so you go for it. It’s a choice, but it’s what you see. If you were brought up in it, you’re probably going to absolutely get involved in it.
What advice do you have for aspiring vocalists?

‘Educate yourself on what the music industry is really about. I know it sounds clichéd, but finish school. I really wish I’d finished high-school.

What does the future hold for Mary J Blige? 

‘I will probably always make music. I’m going to write a book about how I keep myself healthy and together – it takes a lot. I’m reading movie scripts and I’m setting up my clothing line. I’m doing it all.’

Mary J Blige.com

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Tags R&B, Mary J Blige, Soul II Soul, British music
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