Dr. Dre recently reconnected with Mary J. Blige and produced a track for her album Love and Life, but it's the singer's reunion with another studio Svengali that has M.J.B. and the faithful fans that have supported her for over 10 years smiling the most.
"My whole mission was to touch the audience that made me, the My Life audience, the What's the 411? audience," Blige explained on Thursday in New York. "In doing that [I wanted] to bring back my partner, my brother in this music business, Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs. I can't say that something came and told me [to work with him]. It just was all in the universe and he gave me a call letting me know that it was in the universe for him, too.
"He called, he said he wanted to co-executive produce my next album with me," she added. "I said fine, because Puffy and I have always worked great together."
M.J.B. isn't just tooting her own horn — she's speaking the gospel if you ask many hip-hop and R&B fans. Her first two albums, which Diddy oversaw, are hailed as classics. In fact, Mary said she didn't stop working with Diddy after 1994's My Life because of anything that happened in the studio: It was because of her reckless lifestyle.
"The reason we split up is me not understanding the business the way I needed to understand it at the time," she explained. "He had a label, he had a female artist, he had Biggie, but during the time I was really dogging myself. I was a mess on drugs. Any smart man or businessman would have moved away from me. It felt like he was becoming distant, but looking back, I now understand why. I wasn't delivering properly. I wasn't taking care of my health, so how can he roll his dice on me?"
The separation from Diddy worked in Mary's favor in a roundabout way. She gained a sense of independence and took more control of her musical direction, which didn't stick solely with Puffy's hip-hop/R&B hybrid theory.
"I never doubted myself, but I've always been insecure with my ability to do certain things because I lose some of my vocal abilities from smoking and drinking and doing drugs," she continued. "It was like, 'You know what, I'm going to go ahead and do it without you.' It was easy, but the streets and everybody's opinions is what made things so hard — 'Oh, she's not with Puff no more, she can't do it without Puff no more.' "
Obviously both Mary and P.D. have been successful without each other, but both started to think about joining forces again after recording a remix to Mary's "No More Drama" in 2001. During her No More Drama tour the same year, she started to notice how strong a reaction she would get from audiences while performing her hits off of her debut and sophomore LPs and when special guest Diddy would join her onstage.
"The response they gave us let us know we needed to do it again," Mary said. "[Working on the album] was just, 'Hey, I'm back and I understand you now. I've always loved you and I'm glad you're back in my life.' It was like nothing has ever changed. We still think the same but we have grown up. We still have the same arguments but now we understand how to [better resolve them]" (see "Mary J. Blige Teams Up With 50 Cent, P. Diddy To Discuss Love And Life").
Mary says she has new love songs for the ladies who have the same type of fights with their boyfriends and husbands that she experienced in her life. "Basically I said 'No More Drama' for myself," she said of her last album's premise and title. "But there is still a lot of drama for a lot of other women. The songs that are on there are about, OK, how long are you gonna let this guy beat your head off? There are songs like 'Not Today,' meaning, 'we're not having it today.' 'All of My Love' is about what I'm gonna give. Everything in me is what I'm going to give, because he's given it to me."
Although a few tracks, such as "When We Make Love" and "Let Me Be the One," which features 50 Cent, have hit mixtapes, Love and Life's official first single will be "Love at First Sight," which talks about her soul mate. The two had a chance to really bond one night while talking at a nightclub.
"The guy I'm with now was love at first sight," Mary explained. "There was something familiar about his spirit. It's almost like you've seen him somewhere before but you have not seen him before. This person connects with you. It definitely was not a physical thing, it was something else there. It was like I was looking at me."
Among the producers on the album are Tony Dofat, Mario Winans, Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie and Dr. Dre, who produced "Not Today," which boasts a guest spot from Eve.
Outside of her LP, Mary wrote two tunes for the upcoming Aretha Franklin album and co-wrote a track with Chaka Khan for her next project. Love and Life is scheduled to drop in August.