Mary J Blige was born in 1971 in the Bronx, New York. Mary's father left her family when she was only four years old, leaving her, her sister and their mother to fend for themselves. The family moved to Yonkers a few years later and lived in one of the most dangerous sections of the city. At seven, Mary won a talent show for singing Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' and music quickly became her refuge. She also sang in the church choir. In her teenage years, trouble arose as she began experimenting with drugs and dropped out of high school.
However, Mary's love of music never died and in 1988, she recorded a cover of Anita Baker's 'Caught Up In The Rapture' at a recording booth in the mall. Her mother's boyfriend played the cassette for a friend of his in the music industry, Jeff Redd, who worked at Uptown Records. The tape reached the president of the label, Andre Harrell, who met with Mary and signed hre to the label in 1989. Blige was the youngest and first female artist on the label.
Yet the early days on the label were uneventful for Mary as the label focused on its more established acts like Guy and Heavy D & the Boyz. Mary's first assignment came in 1991 when she sang the hook on 'I'll Do 4 U' a track by label mate Father MC.
Finally, Uptown gave her the go in 1992 and Mary worked with the young Sean 'Puffy' Combs. The album was released the same year and was titled What's The 411? It's first single 'You Remind Me' reached #1 on the R&B charts. The second single, 'Real Love' had similar success and even managed to reach #7 on the Hot 100. The album was successful enough to go triple platinum, showing Uptown they had a star on their hands.
In 1994, Mary J Blige released her second album My Life. The album was overseen by Combs, even though he had left Uptown to start his own label. While the album's single 'Be Happy' reached #6 on the R&B charts and the album sold three million copies, times were not happy for Blige. Suffering from a drug addiciton, alcoholism and depression, she was also in an abusive relationship with K-Ci Hailey of the group Jodeci.
1995 was a year of further success in Blige's career as she sang the duet 'I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By' with Method Man, winning a Grammy. She also sang 'Not Gon' Cry' on the soundtrack Waiting to Exhale. The single would reach #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B charts.
Mary's third album, Share My World, was on a new label, MCA Records, and was her first without the involvement of Puff Daddy (Combs) after conflicts in their working relationship. Yet the album still had strong production, under the guidance of Rodney Jerkins and with tracks produed by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and R. Kelly. The album debuted at #1 and went triple platinum. It featured four hit singles: 'Love Is All We Need,' 'I Can Love You,' 'Everything' and 'Seven Days.'
Changing pace, Blige's fourth album Mary, was released in 1999 and featured a softer sound than the more hip-hop influenced early works. The album featured artists such as Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Lauryn Hill but still failed to reach the sales levels of earlier works. Nevertheless, the album managed to go double platinum.
In 2001, Mary scored her first #1 hit on the Hot 100 with the song 'Family Affair.' The song was off her fifth album, No More Drama, which also featured the hit title track. The album's sales failed to impress, so MCa re-released the album with a few changes in the tracks, pushing it to eventually sell two million copies in the U.S. Mary also won her second Grammy for the song 'He Think I Don't Know.'
Difficulties were set aside between Diddy (Puff Daddy) and Mary for her sixth album 'Love & Life' released in 2003. Yet while the album debuted at #1, it received mixed reviews from critics and underperformed commercially. The album only went platinum and caused Diddy and Blige to part ways once again.
Coming out guns blazing, Mary's seventh album, The Breakthrough, proved to be a big success on the charts. The album debuted at #1, selling 727,163 copies its first week, a record for R&B solo female artists. The album has since gone double platinum.
Outside of her music career, Blige has had a few acting roles, playing Mrs. Butler in the movie Prison Song. She also performed in the play, The Exonerated, in 2004.
Blige's personal life was dominated for many years by her relationship with Cedric 'K-Ci' Hailey. This relationship is largely blamed for her drug abuse. Blige credits her escaping her alcohol abuse in 2000 to her relationship with Martin Kendu Isaacs. Isaacs told Blige he would leave her if she ever came home drunk and she was able to kick the habit, helping her lose 40 pounds. They married in 2003, making Blige the stepmother of his three children.