"Feelin' great because the light's on me/ Celebrating the things that everyone told me/ Would never happen but God has put His hands on me/ And ain't a man alive could ever take it from me." —from "Work That"

With her debut What's the 411? in 1992, Mary J. Blige was instantly heralded as the next Chaka Khan or the modern day Aretha Franklin, standing out for her slick, contemporary blend of soul, R&B, and hip-hop. After establishing herself on the urban scene, Blige quickly branched out into pop territory, connecting with various radio formats through the release of 1994's My Life and 1997's Share My World. She became increasingly outspoken about her personal life with each release, including allusions to her ghetto upbringing, tumultuous romantic relationships, and party hard mentality.

On 1999's Mary, however, her commercial domination continued with a more mature sound that shifted away from street savvy in favor of more straightforward soul and hip-hop. Though her personal storms raged on, including drug and alcohol abuse, in an interview with Rolling Stone, she cited the Bible (particularly the Psalms and Proverbs) as the inspiration to eventually kick those habits. By 2001's appropriately titled No More Drama, she made the conscious decision to put her personal demons to rest and reconnect with the Christianity of her youth, as evidenced be her song "Testimony"—"Though my trials and tribulations, I still believe that God had a greater plan for me."

"You start wanting to look for the answer to how to get it," she told AOL Black Voices in an interview shortly after the 2005 release of The Breakthrough. "The answer I learned how to get it is dealing with my own issues–stop blaming everybody else for the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.