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Mary J Blige. Does she need an introduction? One of RnB’s biggest survivors. She has been through a drug addiction, an abusive relationship, been written off by her label - and yet here she is back with the best selling RnB album of 2012 and a starring role in the Rock of Ages movie. Just don’t mention KFC…
Is it painful listening to your old albums?
It’s hard listening to the My Life album. It always make me want to cry. I could not believe I was being treated so badly, that I was treating myself so badly and that I was allowing myself to be treated so badly. I did a lot of drugs. I did a lot of things - not just weed - but beyond that. At that point I was hooked. Was it easier to write back then? I would say it was equal really, because wherever you are, if you’re just honest, it will come out easily. So it’s easy in heaven, easy in hell.
But I remember Aaliyah died on 25th August, then right after the World Trade Centre blew up. I was like ‘OK, am I next?’ That’s where I was at. I had an ulcer from drinking and I knew spiritually I couldn’t go on like that.
I blame it all on not being ready for the Music Industry. If you get all this fame before you’re ready, you can start getting ‘high on your own supply’ and begun to believe the hype. Artist Development should be a major part of every label. Too many people are ending up like Amy Winehouse, no one is preparing them for this.
Elton John’s famous for offering advice to other celebrities dealing with issues. Did he say anything to you when you recorded together?
Yeah when we were working together on the Mary album we got chance to sit down and talk. He was just telling me what a talent he thought I was. But I believe Elton knew I wasn’t going to be able to hear anything he was telling me at that time. Then a few years down the line, after the Love & Life album came out, everyone ran away from us because it didn’t do that well. Then I was doing some charity event with Elton again and Sting too. Elton pulled my husband aside and said ‘See that’s the kind of stuff Mary needs to be doing, no more of this two track shit. She’s bigger than that.’ You want the truth? Go ask Elton!
He’s helped us a lot. When we put The Breakthrough album out he called up and was like ‘You guys have done a great job.’ George Michael was the sweetest thing too.
Would you have said anything to Amy Winehouse?
I would have had some things to say to Amy - loving things - but I don’t think she would have been able to hear them because I couldn’t hear people like that.
You worked with Diddy a lot in the early days but then you guys fell out after My Life, right? I heard it was because he was working on remixes for Mariah, tracks you would normally have had.
No! I love Mariah Carey from way back before I was even in the business! What bothered me was when Faith Evans came into play and it was like ‘OK, you’re going to take everything away from me? My look? My sound? And place it on her?’ I was looking through magazines and I felt like I was looking in a mirror but I was looking at her. But I moved on and forgave him.
Do you think women are overlooked when it comes to Grammys and ‘serious musicianship’?
i wouldn’t say women. For a very long time, I was being overlooked but I kind of say ‘I wasn’t ready’ so I’m glad it didn’t happen.
And what about working in such a male dominated industry. How do you find that?
Well, what I understand now is that you have to make men understand you mean business. They don’t get it coming out of your mouth, so if I go into a meeting my cleavage is not out, I have a turtle neck on and I am expressing my opinions. My husband and I are running a business.
What do you make of homophobia in hip-hop?
I’ve fired people for making homophobic comments. I don’t like people that pick on people because they are different. I’m like ‘Out you go!’
Have you ever seen a Mary J drag queen?
Did I?! Years ago I was performing at this gay club on Halloween and I had on this jean catsuit. The fat was jumping off the sides! That night they had a Mary J look-a-like contest! They all had flip-blonde wigs on. Some were beautiful but I felt like saying to some of them, ‘Hey, you should have done that better!’ Haha…It was fun.
Amerie said ‘You know you’ve made it when you get the gay rumours.’ Have you had them?
Let me tell you one I heard years ago. They said I was a man. This is the shit they were saying on the radio! ‘She is a transvestite that had a sex change!’ But whatever, a lot of women, myself included, are just more masculine than others. But that was then, this is now. I’ve moved on.
What kind of woman would you go for if you ever had a girl crush?
Well I’m not going to have a lesbian fling so I can’t answer that.