Released: July 28th, 1992
Genre: Hip Hop Soul/New Jack Swing/R&B
Producer: Sean “Puffy” Combs, DeVante Swing, Tony Dofat, Dave “Jam” Hall, Mark Morales, Mark Cory Rooney.
We live in a world where Mary Jane Blige is a living legend. Almost 30 years in the game, Mary is the Queen of Hip-Hop soul & one of the most influential & successful artists of all time. With nine Grammy awards four American Music Awards, twelve Billboard Music Awards and three Golden Globe Award nominations.
Before all of her accomplishments, she was a teenager from Yonkers, New York with a dream.
Mary got her start as a singer by being in a local band in Yonkers for a short period. & when her cover of Anita Baker’s “Caught in the Rapture” was played for Jeff Redd, who was a recording artist and A&R runner for Uptown Records. Jeff sent the cassette of Mary’s cover to Andre Harrell, who was the founder of the label. A year later, Mary was signed to the label, being the company’s youngest and first female artist. 🙌🏾
Mary’s career began as being a background vocalist for artists like Father MC, and was featured on Grand Puba & Christopher Williams albums.
Mary began working on her debut album with Sean “Puffy” Combs, who was an executive producer on the record. When you think of the title “What’s The 411,” it comes from Mary’s past endeavor of her being a 4-1-1 operator, and for “being the real deal.” What made Mary lovable from the jump is how she utilizes her musical platform to speak about the experiences she’s gone through to show women that she goes through it as well..so basically she is a relatable artist to this day!
What’s The 411 was the birth of “Hip Hop Soul.” Hip Hop Soul is the marriage of R&B/gospel music singers harmonizing over hip hope musical beats. We will see it done by artists like Jodeci, Faith Evans, TLC & Intro…but Ms. Blige, is the Queen and the originator. Mary came out swinging on her debut album, also being a pioneer of a movement that would later become known as neo soul.
What’s The 411 was released on July 28th, 1992. It peaked at number one on the R&B charts, and had two number one singles with “Real Love,” & “You Remind Me.” The album made Mary one of the most successful new female R&B artists of 92, and the album has since been certified triple platinum by the RIAA.
Ladies & gentlemen, I present to you: Mary J. Blige’s “What’s The 411.”
Leave a Message
Written by Sean “Puffy” Combs & Tony Dofat.
The opening track is a skit that consists of phone voicemails from Diddy and Mary’s peers. It suits well being the opening track cause of Mary’s former occupation as a 411 operator. Get it! It is sampling Schoolly D’s “PSK, What Does It Mean?”
Written by Kenny Greene & Dave “Jam” Hall
The first song on the album goes to the amazing Reminisce, which is a perfect song to showcase how wonderful Mary’s vocals are. Written by the late & talented Kenny Green (from Intro) & Dave Hall, Reminisce tells the tale of two former lovers going down memory lane and trying to ignite the flame they once had.
The song was the 3rd single from the album, & peaked top 10 on the charts. It contains a sample of Stop, Look, Listen by MC Lyte, and is interpolated by Mary herself on MJB Da MVP!
Written by Cory Rooney & Mark Morales
You get hip-hop soul with the timeless hit “Real Love.” This is one of the songs that defined the 90s. The second single from the album, it became her second consecutive number one hit on the R&B charts. It also was a top ten pop hit, giving her crossover success.
It’s such an iconic song because the older it gets, it is such a beautiful mix of new jack swing with soulful vocals. You know the lyrics. You know the vibes. The song has been sampled by Mary herself, Frank Ocean, The Notorious B.I.G., Ariana Grande & 2pac.
Real Love also samples Audio Two’s “Top Billin'”
You Remind Me
Written by Dave Hall & Eric Milteer
The first single to be released from the album, and it was her very first number one single. Produced by Dave Hall, “You Remind Me” heavily samples Patrice Rushen’s 1982 “Remind Me, and also Biz Markie’s “Biz Dance.”
“You Remind Me” also was sampled and interpolated by Tory Lanez & Nas.
Written by Busta Rhymes & Tony Dofat
Halfway through the album, we have a young Busta Rhymes discussing his excitement for Mary throughout the album. The song samples Grover Washington Jr’s “Hydra.”
Written by Chaka Khan & Tony Maiden
Everybody loves a Rufus featuring Chaka Khan cover! Mary did just that with the 1975 classic “Sweet Thing.” With production from Mark Morales & Mark Rooney, the cover is done beautifully. Fun fact: the ladies performed the song together on Motown live! Legends!
Love No Limit
Written by Kenny Greene & Dave Hall.
I am totally judging you if Love No Limit isn’t in your top 10 songs from Mary. Love No Limit is truly a gem. A soulful R&B ballad with a new jack swing influenced beat….it also has Jazz influences to it…showcasing Mary’s versatility as an artist. Even the remix is amazing. Like come on. It served as the final single from the album and was the top 5 hit!
I Don’t Want to Do Anything featuring K-Ci Hailey
Written by DeVante Swing
A wonderful ballad by Mary & K-Ci of Jodeci, “I Don’t Want To Do Anything” is the one. at the time they had a relationship that was tumultuous. It wasn’t until their live performance of this song on MTV Unplugged that they started to notice the tension between the couple. Their relationship would go on to be inspiration for her follow up album “My Life.”
Written by Mark Morales, Mark Rooney & Joseph E. Kelley.
A ballad about taking your time was needed! Slow Down has Mary telling her lover that there’s no need to rush.
Written by Kenny Greene & Dave Hall.
My Love is one of my favorite highlights from What’s The 411. The lyrics speaks about how Mary’s ex wanting to come back in her life after the relationship he was previously in soured. Here’s the tea though: it was a woman he left Mary for! Niggas ain’t shit! Lol but nevertheless, Mary didn’t fold either! Yes queen! The Teddy Riley remix is flawless too.
Changes I’ve Been Going Through
Written by Sean “Puffy” Combs, Mark Morales & Mark Rooney
Changes I’ve Been Going Through is a bop! The lyrics says she want that man to understand her pain of not being with him, but that damn production is stellar! That’s that hip hop soul baby!
What’s The 411 featuring Grand Puba
Written by Maxwell Dixon & Tony Dofat
The title track on the album is dialogue between a man trying to pursue a woman he’s interested in getting to know. However, the woman lets him know what time it is, and if he’s looking for a hookup..he has the wrong woman. It features Grand Puba from the group Brand Nubian. It samples Ohio Players’ “Pride & Vanity,” Debra Laws’ “Very Special.” It also has a sample from Missy Elliott who brings the collaborators back on her 2005 song “My Struggles.”
What’s The 411 reigns supreme and will always be one of the best albums of all time. It gave Mary a jump start in the music industry as one of the newest leading ladies of R&B, and went on to release her critically acclaimed records “My Life,” “Share My World,” “Mary” & “No More Drama.” 28 years later, Mary is a whole legend.
She’s a philanthropist, actress, singer/songwriter, producer and so much more. All hail the Queen Mary! Thank you always for giving us the soundtracks of our lives. ❤️ -MJ