It might be hard to imagine any album by the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul being underrated or overlooked but with a discography as deep as Mary J. Blige’s, it was bound to happen. It’s still a shame thought that her 2003 release Love & Life had to take the hit. Arguably, a #1 debuting, platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated album for any artist would be considered a success but in comparison to the other MJB album eras of the 2000s, it has never gotten the respect it deserves. Check the numerous examples of why it should have below.
From the second that Marvin Gaye sample drops, it’s obvious a signature Mary joint is on deck. She delivers a vocal performance as passionate as that good love she’s singing about making.
M.J.B. and E.V.E. thugging it out and dragging a negro to hell over a banging Dr. Dre beat is everything we never knew we needed until we got.
This was one of those street-meets-sweet love songs that MJB’s catalog can never have enough of.
Love @1st Sight
Reuniting for a new collaboration, Mary and Meth tag-teaming over a funky Tribe Called Quest sample was a nice counterpoint to their original collaboration, this one not as gritty but just as banging.
Willing & Waiting
The samples chosen for this project were key and this smooth twist on Atlantic Starr’s When Love Calls created another one of those MJB grooves (a la Be Happy) that is simply infectious.
Although she had proclaimed “no more drama” on her previous album, it wouldn’t be a Mary J. Blige album without some drama and this stormy moment (courtesy of the perfect Barry White sample) that put a so-called friend on blast helped keep the album in balance.
It’s a Wrap
Mary is another one of those patented no-nonsense records we’ve come to love and expect from Mary and even if the musical backdrop is soft, she’s still not going to make nice with any man doing her wrong.
Ultimate Relationship (A.M.)
An acoustic piano ballad may not have been the finale expected for a Mary J. Blige album but this soft and sweet conclusion showed off a different side of Mary’s voice and demonstrated how much she had grown vocally.
This was Mary’s official reunion album with Puff and (unlike her poorly titled, ill-conceived My Life II project in 2013) it felt like a genuine continuation of the hip-hop soul sound they crafted in the 90s while also serving as a great way of introducing that revolutionary sound to a new generation. Never forget!
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