Inspiringly, Mary J. Blige has fought through a whole storm of pain to get to where she is today. She’s come through drug and booze addiction, abusive boyfriends, jealous family, friends and music industry sharks to emerge as a wise, empowered woman who’s proud to shout it out without selling out. In the 15 years since her debut album, What’s the 411? made her the queen of Hip-Hop Soul, you wouldnt have ever seen Mary J Blige flashing her flesh for the lad mags, and you wouldnt have heard her singing any lyric she doesn’t mean from her heart.Even when her self-esteem was at rock bottom, she refused to follow female media stereotypes. And, now she’s rich, sober, successful, godly and happily married. Content with her place in life, Blige has a new well of emotions to draw from. After eight studio albums, Marys latest offering reveals an artist finally comfortable in her own skin and ready to take the next step in her musical development. Defying the conventional wisdom that aging works against female entertainers, Mary just keeps getting better with age.AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You have taken a different direction with this album and especially with the single. Were you worried at all?Mary J Blige: Well I knew it was a little different for what Mary J. Blige fans were used to and for Mary. Theres a lot of people who are like “We like Mary better miserable,” but its time that I really stand up for Mary and say, “You know what? Some days are not that bad anymore. We used to have horrifying days, but now Im going to celebrate the days that are just fine. Honestly, there are some days where you like what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror and there are some days where youre like “Oh my goodness. Its ok to share with people that its ok. Its ok to have a good day and to celebrate that. AHHA: Does the negative feedback to you making songs like Just Fine hurt you?Mary J Blige: It hurts a little bit because if people really understood the life that I have lived then they would really be happy for me. It has not been you know what its been like? [pauses again]. One terrible thing happening after the next Its like standing on a rug, and someone time after time pulling that rug from underneath so you keep falling to the ground. Thats what my life has been like. So yeah it does kind of hurt when people say that they prefer me miserable, but I understand because thats what they are, thats all they know. They refuse to grow, so I cant do anything more for them. I have to move on.AHHA: What do you personally think of this album compared to your others?Mary J Blige: Coming from the place that I am coming from, its a pretty good start. It still has passion, fire and truth from the state of mind that I am in right now. There is no lying. It is what it is. I could lie and continue to live a miserable life and lie to myself, you know? Things are not all great, dont get me wrong, but I cant put that out to the universe and be so ungrateful after God has given me so much. Hes given me a second chance. So its coming from an honest place and I have to say it is a great record coming from where Im at right now. AHHA: You have always been honest in your music. Your albums almost feel like personal diaries. Is it hard for you to put that out there for everyone to judge?Mary J Blige: Well I started out my career like that, so if I did anything different from that right now then my fans will just be like, “How could you leave us out here like this? You went through all this stuff. Now youre changing your life, getting yourself together and we need to know how you are doing this so we can follow. Were following you because there is something about you that helps us.” So I cant just leave them out there like that. I have to continue to show them how I am doing this. I got to put that positive energy out in the universe. AHHA: What do you think of R&B music right now? What artists do you enjoy?Mary J Blige: I feel there are a few things or people that mean something. Amy Winehouses music means something. Alicia Keys music means something as far as the instruments and how organic her music is. You have some good artists, but lyrically I dont know whats going on. Are people really living what they are singing about? Did they really experience that? Are they capable of explaining to us what you are living or are they just playing a part just because somebody said that they could? I just feel its the same story, the same video, everybodys video looks exactly alike. Theres no real leadership. No ones really standing up except Amy Winehouse. She is the perfect example. If you look at truth, leadership and honesty in music, shes probably the best thing in the business right now. Jill Scott she continues to do what she does. As far as entertainers, Beyonce is an entertainer, but at the same time you cannot take away from Beyonce that she can really sing. Although she is a pretty girl; she really is more than just that. Rihanna has a lot of courage. Theres a lot of chicks that would not dare take the risks that Rihanna has. So yeah, there are a few people right now in the industry that I am enjoying but as far as the state of it its redundant. AHHA: You have a lot of similarities with Amy Winehouse both musically and personally. Battling drug addiction yourself, what do you think Amy needs to do to get on the straight and narrow?Mary J Blige: Its an environment thing. When I was at my point of self-destruction, there wasnt nothing anyone could do for me. I couldnt hear; I didnt want to hear anything If you took away from me the one thing that at that time I thought was saving my life, making life more bearable I would have fired you. Amy probably has a bunch of people around her that are “yes” people and agreeing with everything she says and wants because they want to keep their check, you know? I really dont think theres anything you can say that she can hear right now. Until shes ready to hear, no one will be able to get through to her. Its going to be hard until she is ready. I would love to collaborate with her. AHHA: I would love to hear a song with the two of you Mary J Blige: I would love to hear that too. Her voice is just so warm and amazing. Absolutely, I just literally got chills thinking about it. Shes the truth. When I heard her album, I was like “Oh my goodness, where did she come from?” You got to lift a person up like that. I really hope I can collaborate with her. Id love to make that happen.AHHA: What saved you? What got you off the drugs and making songs like Just Fine? Mary J Blige: I got to give the credit to God. As cliché as that sounds Hes real in my life. I was praying for God to send me away; to get me out of this. So many people were dying around me my best friend died and then Aaliyah passed and then the whole New York City blew up with the World Trade Center and I was just wondering if I was next, if it was my time. I got tired of living that way and I did not want to die so it was either keep doing what I was doing and eventually die from it or walk through the fire of getting myself well. The only way and reason I got through that fire was with the help of the Lord. He really helped me. Im not a religious fanatic, but he really did help me. He saved my life. I believe he was there helping me through. He showed up and gave me everything I lost back and double. Everything I had to sacrifice, He gave it back to me. Everything But to tell someone to pray they dont listen or take you seriously, so all I can do is be an example and continue to let people know that you can get through it; look, I am the living example. People dont want to hear things. People want to see it with their own eyes. It hurts when people turn their back on you, it hurts to not be popular or to not be loved or too be embarrassed with your actions. People calling you names and believing youre going to die or your career is over, but you can work through it takes some tough skin, but you can do it. I remember feeling like I was in a hole, like I was incarcerated in my own prison and people laughing at me. Imagine being in that position and seeing a face laughing at you that you never thought would do that? Thats devastating. You know you thought that person loved you. Its tough… AHHA: So a lot of people turned against you?Mary J Blige: Oh yeah. So many people I thought cared about me, who were my friends, but I forgive them. They didnt know; they were just going based on what they saw. They saw me self destructing so they thought I was going to die. They thought I was finished.AHHA: You worked so hard getting off the drugs only for the press to say youre on steroids How does that make you feel?Mary J Blige: Its ok. It really is ok. Every other year they say something. I think last year I was getting a divorce; recently I was pregnant. Way before that someone said that I was a man, and I got a sex change and Im really a transvestite. Whats next? It all comes with the territory. These people thrive on negativity; thats their battery. Theres nothing I can do about it except keep working hard for everything I have and I dont have to prove anything to anyone. My life speaks for itself. Be sure to check Part 2 of Mary J. Blige, where Mary talks motherhood, Jay-Z, and her future plans.