Reflections (A Retrospective)

Artist: Mary J. BligeTitle: Reflections (A Retrospective)Rating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Eb Haynes

Music critics, reviewers, braniacs with pens, a thesaurus and opinions; all at times forget two basic ingredients, soul and passion. Mary J. Blige a once critically shunned, unpolished ghetto siren emanating from 1992's What's the 411, has been a beacon of truth and pain, expressing a tangibly raw view into the gray moments of street life. Today, Mary J. Blige is an icon that has emerged into a woman, wife and artist unabashedly beaming with hope and brimming with possibility. Reflections (A Retrospective) (Geffen) not only offers four new classic gifts but MJB also dug deep, revisiting 11 hood anthems which helped usher in the impenetrable age of Hip-Hop/R&B/Soul.

Listeners will not help but fall deeply in-love with the mature, sultry groove of the compilations opening joint, "Reflection (I Remember)." MJB continues her growth pursuit with one of her sexiest songs to date, graced with John Legend's instrument of a voice, on the superb "King and Queen." After all the newness, MJB reminds her audience of exactly what they desire.

1995's "My Life" is updated to include sage verses, complementing Mary's impressive passion for telling the truth. Mary borrows the soulfully edgy, sometimes forgotten duet with Wyclef, "911." Then the album hits its pinnacle. Yes, MJB fans once hunched over and swaying to the grimiest of grimiest Bonnie and Clyde trends, "I'll Be There For You/Your All I Need" featuring Method Man, rounds out this amazing rewind into glam Hip-Hop nostalgia.

MJB is a survivor. MJB is a maverick against all odds. Then, in retrospect that is the essence of Hip-Hop. Regardless of gut wrenching soulful ballads with Bono or the Dr. Dre, Rodney Jerkins produced R&B jams, MJB is Hip-Hop. She defines a generation, radiating beyond Diddy and Hype's shiny accessories addiction, in addition to conquering her own demons. The Queen immortally glows on Reflections (I Remember).