Mary J. Blige Forms Her Own Record Label

Mary Jane Entertainment created to give R&B singer a chance to discover and develop new talent.

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

charts.

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

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Lox,_The/Money_Power_And_Respect.ram">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

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Blige,_Mary_J/I'm_The_Only_Woman_Live.ram">"I'm

The Only Woman" (RealAudio excerpt) and

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Blige,_Mary_J/Everything_Live.ram">"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."