Mary J. Blige has had a breakthrough: To really make sure she has "No More Drama" in her life, she's got to rethink her tactics. So for her next album, Blige is putting the "self" back into self-help.
"I'm one of my biggest obstacles," Blige — who is on the cover of Essence's September issue — told the magazine. "Me."
What that means for the R&B singer is recognizing that she can't change anyone but herself, and if she wants to affect other people, she has to stop blaming others and look inward. Blige said the overriding theme on her forthcoming album, The Breakthrough, is recognizing that "it's nobody's fault. For real."
"The way I would define success is just really getting to the point where you deal with you," she explained. "Where you get to the point where you're mad, or you're upset, or you're insecure, or you're prideful, but you're not pointing at your husband or whoever. Your husband and kids might have problems, but the bottom line is that you have to deal with you if you want them to change. People are not going to change unless they see you change."
For instance, if you're upset that your family is overweight, she said, "you have to get you together to the point where you want to train." Part of that involves taking the blame (or credit) for your behavior leading to your condition and confronting it: "You walk up to the cookies, you walk up to the cake, you walk up to the burger and you start the arguments."
Blige says this isn't about acting selfishly, but about being protective of yourself and facing your own "inner demons and inner insecurities." It's also not about dwelling on your problems — your dramas — but about taking responsibility for them. "That's the first thing I deal with, in order to get to my goals," she said. "That's the bottom line, breaking through. Getting to the point where you can focus on you. Focus on the good side of life, which is love, which is [being] happy. You're happy you got to the point where you can say, 'Gosh, I got a lot of baggage, I got a lot of stuff going on with me.' "
Blige's more personal baggage, she said, involved stopping drinking and drugging, controlling her temper, forgiving her father for not being around when she was young and dealing with being molested when she was 5.
"This isn't something I have ever shared in the press, and it's not something I want to talk about a lot," she said. "But I kept hearing about children being molested, and I felt God was tapping me on the shoulder, saying, 'You're not the only one.' I know being molested like that blocks out your value, and it makes you feel you're not worth anything. I want other women to know that something like that can happen to you, and you can still grow to be happy and you can still break through to the other side."
Photos: Essence Magazine Photo Shoot
That's why she says Breakthrough — which she's been working on with Swizz Beatz, Cool & Dre, Dre & Vidal, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Rodney Jerkins, the Neptunes, Raphael Saadiq and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (see "Mary J. Blige's Producers Spill The 411 On Her Next LP") — is ultimately about "the upside of life." Song titles on the album, due in November, include "People" and "Can't Hide From Love."
"I haven't forgotten that my fans, a lot of them, might still be stuck," she said. "I reach back into my past for them, but I'm enjoying and celebrating my life right now."