Ever since Mariah Careys first album dropped 15 years ago, her status in the public eye evolved from R&B Cinderella to Pop Princess as her career progressed. By 1999 she was the first artist to have a hit song in every single year of the 90s. She sold millions of records and won two Grammys, eight American Music Awards, Billboard’s Artist of the Decade” Award and the World Music Award for World’s Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium”. Mariah entered into the new millennium with an $80 million dollar deal with Virgin Records the biggest deal ever signed by an artist.
Where does an artist go from there? For Mariah, it seemed as though it was all downhill. Within a year of landing her Virgin contract, her film Glitter was released and received some of the worst reviews in the history of film. She suffered some serious personal setbacks, and talks of her depression and suicidal feelings became fodder for the media and public.
By 2002 she left Virgin and moved on to Island/Def Jam with her own label imprint to release her ninth album, Charmbracelet, picking up steam once again with multi-platinum sales. Even still, the publics scornful eye seemed to continue to disregard her phenomenal successes and charity work, focusing instead on her short-term failures.
After a hiatus, Mariah is back with a vengeance in 2005 with The Emancipation of Mimi, her tenth album, and most personal work to date. Recently, AllHipHop.com Alternatives had the opportunity to get friendly with Mimi, and find out more about her new direction in life.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How would you describe the sound of your new album?
Mariah: Its more fun, party records. There are still those songs that can make you cry. I was on tour for a long time, and Ive been to places like Russia. Ive seen all these types of fans and I really experienced life on the road. I never really did a long tour before. It also got my voice in a place that really good in general. I would do a show, and then I would take like two days off. So I got a really good schedule, which was good for vocal rest this may be hard for people to understand who arent singers. I really need to take care of my voice. So being on that tour really got my voice into a place where it was before I did my first album. It’s a great place to be.
AHHA: Can you explain the meaning behind the name Mimi?
Mariah: It was a nickname that nobody called me Mariah. Only my mother or people who dont know me call me that. Mariah has become a foreign name, and theres a negative perception that comes with that. Basically The Emancipation of Mimi was the freeing of my mind and spirit. I told LA Reid the concept for the title, and he loved it. He was like, I totally feel you as a person when I hear this album, as opposed to an over produced studio moment.
AHHA: You mentioned [in the past] that you were depressed. Are you happier now?
Mariah: Yeah. Nobody really asked me about that, because it is so played out and so misconstrued – honestly it is just like any other person having a bad day – but with me it was blown out of proportion. That is with everything we go through – it is apart of our journey of being human beings. I am grateful for every moment that I have been through; I am not mad or bitter about anything that I went through. I had to go through difficult times to get to this point in my life and career. The excitement around this record is genuine. Even on the record it was not anything that was forced on me – that is the cool thing about the record. This is the first glimpse into the album, and it is getting a really good response. I am at a better place because it is something I had to go through to find a better moment.
AHHA: How do you feel about Def Jam? Have you discussed your plans with Jay-Z?
Mariah: LA and I have been working together on this project from the beginning, so it has really been our thing, but now that Jay is there I will be able to bounce ideas off of him, because that would be something I would do even if he wasnt president of the label. It is great that he is there; I believe that he and LA make a great team.
AHHA: Why was your project pushed back?
Mariah: I wrote four more records; I went to Atlanta to work with [Jermaine Dupri] because LA was like, Why havent you worked with Jermaine already? Jermaine and I have been working together since My Baby, but now you can watch peoples careers grow and flourish. I am really happy to see people that love music in a powerful position, because even LA Reid was a producer.
AHHA: What was the writing process with this album?
Mariah: It was a good experience because I really got to stretch; I have been wanting to work with Kanye for a long time. We tried a couple of things previously and it never happened, but this time around it did. We did a record call Stay The Night, I got a beat from Traxter and did a song called One And Only. I saw Twista backstage at a show and I was telling him about the track, and he said that beat was supposed to be for him and he had written something for it, so we did a collaboration.
I finally worked with Pharrell. I feel like he had me in a different arena from what I am used to chord-wise – he is very creative yet has a young sensibility. It was really different experience for me – I was in one room, Snoop in the next, Nelly in one room working on his album, I ended up doing records with both of them. It was more like a party experience. Instead of making an album and trying to make it a contrived moment, this was like lets have a good time, and lets make music that makes me happy or inspired.
AHHA: What makes you happy?
Mariah: At this moment in my life it is music. Making this record has put me in a creative zone, which is good for me as a person. So that is the center for me as a human being, and that is the way it has always been – being creative has always saved me, even as a young person. During difficult times I had an outlet.
AHHA: There was a whole lot of talk about your movie Glitter. Do you have any plans on acting?
Mariah: I dont know what can be said about Glitter. That talk about it is so tired. We all know it didnt do what we would have hoped for. But truthfully there are so many films that were not that successful either. I did an independent movie right after that with Mira Sorvino, who is an Academy Award winner, called Wise Girl, and I played a girl in the mafia who is a drug dealer and waitress. It did really well and got good reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, but it was overshadowed by the other mess. I am really focused on music right now, but there are more [plans] for the future with independent films with me playing character roles.