A New Documentary Explores the Origins of ‘My Life,’ Mary J. Blige’s Most Personal Album

A New Documentary Explores the Origins of ‘My Life,’ Mary J. Blige’s Most Personal Album

With 13 albums, nine Grammy awards, and millions of records sold, Mary J. Blige has more than earned the title the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.” But My Life, a new documentary arriving on Amazon Prime tomorrow, shows that the superstar’s journey to the top hasn’t been without its struggles.

The documentary, directed by Vanessa Roth, looks back on one of Blige’s most famous albums, 1994’s My Life, which remains not only one of her most personal and raw album to date—touching on her experiences in an abusive relationship, struggles with addiction, and more—but also effectively changed the course of hip-hop and soul music.

The film begins by exploring Blige’s upbringing in Yonkers, New York. She recalls falling in love with music after hearing “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” by Roy Ayers. “I don’t know what’s in that record, but there’s something in it that just cracked open everything in me,” Blige says. “That was the first music as a child that struck with me, because it made me forget we live where we live. That record made me feel like I could have something.”

Raised by a single mother, Blige longed to pursue music, but she found that the housing projects she lived in made it tough to dream big. “With families in the projects, it’s like a prison inside of a prison inside of a prison,” says Blige. “It’s people hurting people hurting each other… I carried people’s pain, and I carried my own pain.” Singing, she says, was her escape from it all. “Singing made me forget that we were struggling so much.”

When she was 19, however, Blige got her big break after a demo she recorded was sent to Uptown Records. “When Mary opened her mouth and sang, it spoke to a generation of children and kids who were coming out of [an area] where they raised themselves,” says Jeff Redd, a former Uptown Records artist. Blige then began working with Diddy, who was with the label at the time, and they produced her first record, What’s the 411?. It was a big hit.

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