Domineering Hip-Hop Soul Queen Mary J. Blige has held the game tightly in her hand for 10 years strong and probably wont let it slip from her vice-grip anytime soon. On her upcoming album, Love and Life she flips it back to '92 as she and P. Diddy return to her musical roots. And thus, Mary showers fans with the sort of music that made them fall in love with her in the beginning. At a party in Dallas, Allhiphop.com and Mary J. shot the breeze about her new stage in life, returning to her roots, looming movie aspirations and even her thoughts on a certain "Princess of Hip Hop and R&B."
AHHA: Aside from your obvious talent, what has contributed to your longevity?
MJB: The one thing that I know that has sustained me was not a positive thing, it was me not knowing who I was or what my self-worth was. I didn't know that Mary J. Blige was a star or whatever you want to call it until like last year. It really kicked in last year that I was "somebody." So I guess that's what sustained me, if you want to call it humility... but at the same time not knowing who you are for real.
AHHA: What are your plans for the future, are you going to do any films?
MJB: Music is my first love. I love music, but I'm definitely going to go into film. But I'm not going to go into film just because I can and the door is open. I'm going to get an acting coach and try to do it correctly because people like Queen Latifah opened the door for us to get in and do it right.
AHHA: They're trying to market Ashanti as the princess of hip hop and r&b and that really makes it sound like she's supposed to be the next coming of you, what do you think about that?
MJB: I look at business like this, there is no other Aretha Franklin. There is Aretha Franklin, there is Mary J. Blige, and you cannot come to me and say "you're the next Aretha Franklin." No I'm not the next Aretha Franklin... Ashanti is Ashanti. And without the title "the Queen of Hip Hop/Soul" I can still do 12 more albums, so they can have the title if that's what they want.
AHHA: I wanted to know Mary, personally, going through your changes right now what artists do you get along with, who do you kick it with in the industry?
MJB: Right now my real good friend is Monica. Monica is the most sincere and realest person I've ever met that none of this phases her. And that's the kind of people I really want to deal with. Monica's one of my really good friends.
AHHA: What inspires you?
MJB: My foundation is God and that's what keeps me going through the day, knowing that I'm going to wake up each morning... knowing that I'll have a chance that through my music and through my experience I'll have a chance to edify people and women on how to be strong--and men. And tell women that there are some good brothers out there.
AHHA: Does this album represent a stage in your life and if so, what does it represent?
MJB: This album does represent a stage in my life, and in this stage I learned how to love Mary. I like Mary an awful lot and loving and liking Mary an awful lot, I've drawn to me someone that likes me a lot and I'm singing to him. I'm singing to the man I'm engaged to because he's my other half. The part of my brain that doesn't work, he works for it. And there's a lot of songs on there dedicated to my fans, just thanking them and letting them know that "you know what, in my lifetime we were suffering yall, but we made it out." And for the ladies that are still suffering, and are still in those relationships where they believe that the guy loves them and he actually hates them, there's songs on there for them too.
AHHA: A lot of female singers struggle with fame and notoriety and become scandalized. How do you manage to remain scandal-less?
MJB: Well the way that I've remained in this music business without killing someone is because I really didn't care what people said about me. And if I did care I did something about it. I was a savage, I didn't care. I was a street girl... and I handled it street. So it never really bothered me because I knew that I was going to defend myself any way possible. But the way I defend myself now--I look at it like "I know who I am, and I'm not any of those things so I don't care what you say about me. Your opinion is just your opinion."
AHHA: You look really good, really healthy and everything. Do you work with a trainer now?
MJB: I do have a personal trainer. I work out three times a week, whenever I can. I'll do an hour on each body part. I don't eat pork, I'm alcohol-free... I curse a lot, but you know everybody's got something. The bottom line is I drink a lot of water and I eat six meals a day and I've done one month without carbs.
AHHA: What advice would you give to someone that wants the same kind of longevity as you?
MJB: I'd say don't let anyone talk you into trying to be someone else. Be who you are and that's what's important. Be who you are, and understand that this is the beginning of your career. You might not make that $5000 check, you might get a $500 check for a show. Do that show, pay those dues and you'll survive in this business.
AHHA: Besides P. Diddy, who else did you work with on this album?
MJB: There's a lot of producers that I collaborated with on this album. There's one producer that I collaborated with, I actually wrote songs and produced with him. His name is Makelli. He's out of Chicago and he is on fire. He's gonna be the next--whatever, who ever the hottest writer is right now.