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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 15:33 GMT
Blige attacks 'disrespectful' divas
Mary J Blige
Mary J Blige is one of hip-hop soul's pioneers
R&B singer Mary J Blige has criticised fellow artists who are "disrespectful" to the work of others, particularly pioneers of the genre.

Blige, who was likened to soul legends Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin at the start of her career, said too many up-and-coming R&B stars were willing to claim their greatness - without having actually achieved very much.

"People disrespect everyone nowadays, they don't even give them a chance to breathe," Blige told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"They're like 'I'm the princess of hip-hop soul.' It's like, 'how did that happen?'"


Blige said that though many now credited her as the "queen" of hip-hop soul, she acknowledged the work of those who had first brought the music into the mainstream.

"The bottom line is, if you asked me years ago, 'who's Aretha Franklin?', then I would tell you she's the queen of soul," she stated.

Chaka Khan
Blige acknowledged legends like Chaka Khan
"I'm Mary J Blige - hip-hop soul is what defines what my music is. The queen of it is just being that I'm a leader. I would never take from Chaka or Aretha, or disrespect what they are or their legacy.

"But now, it's all about all these little people behind them, saying little subliminal things, and it's disrespectful.

"I don't feel that we have to do that to get ahead."

Blige, whose latest album Love And Life was released last month, is an icon for many - especially as she has had such a long-lasting career having come into the industry from the poverty-stricken New York Housing Projects.

She was first spotted in a shopping centre singing an Anita Baker song into a karaoke machine. Her first album, produced by Puff Daddy, was released in 1991.

Blige told The Music Biz that only now had she become comfortable with her own talents, having lacked confidence in her voice on previous albums.

She said she felt this was especially true on her My Life album - ironically, the one that is most popular with fans.

"That's the album that people love the most," Blige stated.

"That's one of my favourite albums, because of the mistakes.

"Just looking back and saying, 'gosh, I was really a scared little girl then - confused, and all of that'... I didn't have any confidence in my vocal ability."

Speaking through music

Blige is renowned as one of R&B's pioneers because she was among the first to mix modern soul with rap. She has dueted with a number of high-profile stars, including Whitney Houston and Sting - something that continues on Love And Life, which features both Puff Daddy and 50 Cent.

"When I met 50, I knew he was going to be everything that I thought he was going to be, and I can relate to him," Blige said on working with one of the hottest current rap stars.

Puff Daddy
Puff Daddy has now produced three of Blige's albums
"He's just a beautiful person. You meet some beautiful people - people have so much to say about their music, but these people are only speaking from what they're living, or what they've lived, the same way how I'm speaking through my music.

"This is what I'm living, this is what I've lived."

She also spoke highly of another artist to feature on the album - rapper Jay-Z.

"I worked with Jay on his first album, and I respect Jay for his hip-hop legacy because he's never let us down.

"He's never put a whack record out there, and he's just so clever with his words.

"If Biggie was alive, that would be my first choice, but Jay is my first choice for opening up for Mary J Blige on an album like this."


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