R&B singer Mary J. Blige has a reputation for being opinionated and strong of character
and for having an ear for music that has sent all three of her albums to the top of the
Perfect qualities for the head of a record label, right?
Blige seems to think so, and as a result, she formed a label called Mary Jane
Entertainment. The label, which will feature artists from the worlds of R&B and rap on its
roster, was born out of Blige’s frustration with her inability to foster the careers of artists
she discovers. As an example, she cited her experience with hip-hoppers the LOX,
whom she introduced to megastar rap-producer Sean “Puffy” Combs after being unable
to find an outlet for them on her own.
“I didn’t have nowhere for them to go,” she said. “I wish I could have brought them with
me, but I’m really happy for the success they found with Puffy.” The LOX’s debut album,
Money, Power & Respect, yielded hits in the form of the title
track (RealAudio excerpt) and “If You Think I’m Jiggy.” Blige said she would
have preferred being more involved in the LOX’s success, and she formed her own label
once she started discovering more talent.
Brad Stern, an assistant manager at Harmony House in Birmingham, Mich., said he
thought that fans of Mary J. Blige would respond warmly to artists from her label. “With a
smaller label like that, fans know what the music will sound like,” he explained, noting
the success of artists on Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment and Master P’s No Limit
Records. “If they like what’s happening at the top, they’re pretty likely to check out what’s
happening with that label’s acts.”
The first artist on Mary Jane Entertainment, R&B singer Dustin Adams, is a featured
performer on “Keep Your Head,” a track from Blige’s most recent album, The Tour.
Blige also said she was working with a set of twin R&B singers and two teen rappers, all
of whom are currently being groomed for public consumption. “They all had names like …
oh, I don’t know,” Blige said, alluding to her protégés’ questionable monikers. “So we’re
fixing them up a little bit [and] getting them ready.”
Blige knows what it’s like being a young artist trying to make it big. She got her start
performing as a child in Savannah, Ga., where she sang in the choir at her Pentecostal
church. When she was 16, she recorded what became her demo in the karaoke studio of
a shopping mall in Yonkers, N.Y. — a version of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up In The
Rapture” that caught the attention of Uptown Records’ Andre Harrell, who quickly signed
Blige to his label.
What’s The 411, Blige’s 1992 debut album, became a smash hit and unleashed a
mixture of soulful R&B and hip-hop that is now a radio staple. She followed that
recording with two more successful albums that used the same formula, 1994’s My
Life and 1997’s Share My World. The Tour — an audio document of her
first headlining tour, including live versions of “I’m
The Only Woman” (RealAudio excerpt) and “Everything”
(RealAudio excerpt) — was released Tuesday.
After years of performing at the top of her game, Blige said she thinks that her success
will help her out as the CEO of her own record label. “That’s another big experience for
me,” she said. “[But] I’m confident that I know what I’m doing. I’ve got a lot of years
behind me in this game, and my experiences can help my artists out.”