Sean “Puffy” Combs didn’t have a final strategy for My Life yet. He had gone through many records and the only song that stuck was Poke and Tone’s “Be Happy.” Uptown Records was in disarray—in fact, Puff had been fired from the label—but Mary J. Blige’s follow-up to What’s the 411? couldn’t fall through the cracks. Washington DC producer Chucky Thompson, who Puff picked up to help start a shell of an idea called Bad Boy, had a vision. He wanted to make Mary a legitimate R&B force by showing off her vocals and sharpening her writing chops. He wanted to kill the noise of her vocal shortcomings. He would rip samples from Roy Aires, Curtis Mayfield and Barry White and add instrumentation over them. All Mary had to do was write.
MJB, stuck in an abusive relationship with Jodeci’s K-Ci Hailey, had plenty of pain to fuel her pen. She had the ammo to create the bible for women with broken hearts. The classic album, My Life, didn’t have the marketing dollars that TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool did but word of mouth was all the push it neded. The album went on to sell 3 million copies. Twenty years later Hitman Chucky Thompson, who produced all but one record, remembers creating the album that many consider to be the benchmark of Mary J. Blige’s career.
(1) The Vision For My Life Took Some Time To Become Clear
“I knew that Mary and Puff were going through a ton of a records. And I knew that Puff had somewhat of an idea to continue the What’s the 411? album vibe, but they only had like one song. I was doing my whole deal with Puffy as my manager at the time so I had just finished my Bad Boy [contract]. For me it was between two different managers that I could go with but Puff could get me Mary.
A friend of mine was going back and fourth to NY and DC and he had a cassette tape of Mary’s album. “You Remind Me” was out and you could hear that she was different and dope with that one record but when he came back with What’s the 411?, I just felt like, man, she’s my calling. Hiriam Hicks was the other [manager I was considering]. Hiriam could get me TLC, but he couldn’t get me Mary. That was my whole reason for going with Bad Boy, which was just a concept then.
By the time I met her, I was only contracted to do one song and one interlude. “Be With You” was the record that I submitted. The crazy part is that it was someone else’s record. She wasn’t even supposed to get that. I had to tell them guys y’all lost a song.
When she finished that one song it kinda lit things up and changed the vibe from What’s the 411?. Like I said, Puff kinda had an idea but he didn’t have an idea. When we came with that “Be With You” record, the way people felt when they heard that one track, it changed people’s minds about who she was, which was a big thing to me because I had heard the backlash of her being hard…you know, the way her look was. Puff was stressing her [looking] real hard, so people were discrediting her as a singer because of her image. They weren’t really giving her credit for her singing and her voice, all the things that they give it up for her now, but this was my vision.”
CLICK THE ARROW TO READ ABOUT MARY’S STUDIO G STATUS AND WHAT REALLY HAPPENED ON THAT “WHO SHOT YA” INSTRUMENTAL