Tune in to youtube.com/maryjbligevevo at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET on Thursday, November 17 to see the legendary singer perform live as part of Amex’s UNSTAGED concert series, in partnership with YouTube and VEVO. The concert will be directed by Adam Shankman, the noted dancer/choreographer/director who’s also directing Blige in the upcoming film version of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages. His credits include the film Hairspray as well as innumerable music videos. (He has also found time to judge on the television show So You Think You Can Dance.)
Many music critics credit Mary J Blige with inventing hip-hop soul, with help from a very young P. Diddy, on her first album What’s The 411? The song “Real Love” became a monster hit.
For My Life, her second album, Diddy (then known as Sean “Puffy” Combs) pulled samples from a who’s-who of soul music: Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Al Green and many more. (Check out our playlist of My Life’s soul music influences.) Those samples pervade the album, and though Blige had the pipes to vie with the old masters, she was unmistakably of the hip-hop generation in attitude and style; this was no clean-cut Whitney Houston. She co-wrote many of the songs on the album, working off material from her own life.
The singer quickly became a pop music phenomenon, but privately she was battling demons. Later albums such as 2001’s No More Drama saw Blige speaking openly about the challenges she’d faced in her personal life and using her music to deliver life-affirming messages to her faithful fanbase.
Blige has been stalwart of the R&B scene for so many years that it’s easy to forget just how influential she’s been. She was the first artist to forge ties between hip-hop and R&B that we now take for granted; before Blige’s Grammy-winning collaboration with Method Man, R&B singer/rapper collaborations were nearly unheard-of. They’re now de rigeur. On the eve of the second installation of My Life, we’re proud to welcome a musical legend to UNSTAGED.