My Life is the second studio album by American R&B recording artist Mary J. Blige, released on November 29, 1994, by Uptown Records. Many of the topics on My Life deal with clinical depression, Blige’s battling with both drugs and alcohol, as well as being in an abusive relationship. Unlike her debut, What’s the 411? (1992), Blige co-wrote fourteen of the album’s tracks, making it her most introspective and personal album at the time. Similar to her debut album, My Life features vast production from Sean “Puffy” Combs for his newly founded label, Bad Boy Entertainment, which was at the time backed by Arista Records.
Considered to be her breakthrough album, My Life became Mary J. Blige’s second album to reach the top ten on the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at number seven, and debuting at number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for eight weeks. In 1996, the album was nominated for Best R&B Album at the 38th Grammy Awards, while in December of the same year, the album was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of three million copies in the United States. It also won the 1995 Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Album. In 1996, following the album’s success, MCA issued a remix EP entitled My Life Remix Album which featured artists such as LL Cool J and Lauryn Hill.
A special commemorative edition of the album will be released on November 20, 2020.
Following the success of her debut album, What’s the 411?, and a remixed version in 1993, Blige went into the recording studio in the winter of 1993 to record her second album, My Life. Producer Chucky Thompson was brought in and had originally been contracted to produce one song and an interlude for the project. He ended up being a last minute replacement as the producers Blige worked with previously on What’s the 411? demanded more money when the album was certified triple platinum. Blige loved the one song Thompson produced for her, which made Combs change the direction of the album.
Combs called recording engineer Prince Charles Alexander out of the blue after Jodeci went to record Diary of a Mad Band. Alexander was brought in at the end of the record, after working on albums by other artists on Bad Boy Entertainment, such as Total, The Notorious B.I.G. and 112. In the middle of recording My Life, Combs suggested covering Rose Royce‘s 1977 hit “I’m Going Down“, which he wanted Alexander to handle the session. However, the two butted heads over production credit issues, as Combs wanted to give credit to himself and Thompson, although neither were present for the song’s recording session. Alexander fought hard to seek production credit from Combs and the two battled it out over the phone over the issue. Combs later explained it was due to receiving a flat royalty rate for producing the majority of the songs and Alexander’s production credit would have interfered with the royalty rate. To circumvent this issue, Alexander insisted on having two more sessions with Bad Boy acts. One of the other songs he produced was another Rose Royce cover – “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” for Faith Evans‘ 1995 debut Faith. Alexander was later called back in to do some mixing and recording.
On the song “K. Murray Interlude”, it originally featured The Notorious B.I.G.. He was taken off due to the song’s lyrical content, which would have forced Uptown Records to release the album with a Parental Advisory sticker. Rapper Keith Murray was the replacement, while The Notorious B.I.G.’s verse would be released as the song “Who Shot Ya“.
The album was a breakthrough for Blige, who at this point was in a clinical depression, battling both drugs and alcohol- as well as being in an abusive relationship with K-Ci Hailey, which was reported in several tabloids. In this period, Blige would once again dominate the charts with her singles: the Top 40 hit “Be Happy“, a cover version of “I’m Goin’ Down” and “You Bring Me Joy”. The album uses primary soul samples from R&B musicians such as Curtis Mayfield, Roy Ayers, Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Rick James, and his protégés, the Mary Jane Girls.
NME wrote that the beats “reign supreme” and commended Blige for “telling her audience she grew up the same way they did, listened to the same things, was influenced by the same situations.” Village Voice critic Robert Christgau gave it a three-star honorable mention, indicating “an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure”. He cited “Mary Jane” and “I’m Going Down” as highlights while calling the album “an around-the-way girl’s recipe for happiness”. In a mixed review, Jonathan Bernstein of Spin found most of the songs too “ordinary” and felt that Blige’s compositions “give her space to stretch out and emote, but for all the melody they possess they might as well be breathing exercises.”Connie Johnson was more critical in the Los Angeles Times, finding it “drab” and devoid of attitude from Blige, who “doesn’t add her own hard-core signature to any significant degree”.
In 2002, My Life was ranked number 57 on Blender‘s list of the 100 greatest American albums of all-time.The following year, Rolling Stone placed it at number 279 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, 281 on a 2012 revised list, and 126 on a 2020 list. In 2006, the record was included in Time‘s 100 greatest albums of all-time list.
My Life debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 chart, and it would eventually peak at #7. The album debuted atop of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at the No. 1 position for selling 200,000 copies where it spent a total of eight weeks atop of that chart. The album would ultimately go on to spend 46 weeks on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and 84 weeks on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album also charted in Canada peaking at number thirty-seven, and at number fifty-nine on the UK Albums Chart. On December 13, 1995, My Life was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of three million copies in the United States.
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1.”Intro”Mary J. Blige, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Chucky ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs1:04
2.”Mary Jane (All Night Long)“Blige, Combs, Rick James, ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:39
3.”You Bring Me Joy“Blige, Combs, Joel “JoJo” Hailey, Thompson, Ekundayo Paris, Nelson PigfordChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:13
4.”Marvin Interlude”Blige, Combs, ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs0:36
5.”I’m The Only Woman”Blige, Combs, Thompson, Joel Hailey, Curtis MayfieldChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:30
6.”K. Murray Interlude”Keith Murray, Combs, Nasheim Myrick, Thompson, Allie Wrubel, Herb MagidsonNashiem Myrick, Sean “Puffy” Combs0:22
7.”My Life”Blige, Combs, Arlene DelValle, Thompson, Roy AyersChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:17
8.”You Gotta Believe”Blige, Big Bub, Combs, Faith Evans, Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey, Thompson, Herb MiddletonHerb Middleton, Chucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs5:02
9.”I Never Wanna Live Without You”Blige, Big Bub, Combs, Evans, Thompson, MiddletonHerb Middleton, Chucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs6:17
10.”I’m Goin’ Down“Norman WhitfieldChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Mark Ledford, Prince Charles Alexander3:42
11.”My Life Interlude”Blige, Big Bub, Combs, ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs1:15
12.”Be With You”Blige, Combs, ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:26
13.”Mary’s Joint”Blige, Combs, ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs5:02
14.”Don’t Go”Blige, Combs, Evans, Thompson, Big Bub, Gene Griffin, Timmy Gatling, Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, Donnie McClurkinChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:59
15.”I Love You“Blige, Combs, Thompson, Isaac HayesChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:31
16.”No One Else”Cedric Hailey, Dalvin DeGrate, Al Green, Douglas E. Davis, Ricky WaltersMr. Dalvin4:14
17.”Be Happy“Blige, Combs, DelValle, J.C. Olivier, Curtis MayfieldSean “Puffy” Combs, Poke5:49
International bonus track
No. Title Writer(s) Producer Length
18.”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman“Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry WexlerJames Mtume2:
25th Anniversary Edition Bonus Disc
1.”Mary Jane (All Night Long) (Remix) (featuring LL Cool J)”Blige, Combs, Rick James, ThompsonChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs5:31
2.”I’m Going Down (Remix) (featuring Mr. Cheeks)”Norman WhitfieldChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Mark Ledford, Prince Charles Alexander3:50
3.”I Love You (Remix) (featuring Smif-N-Wessun)”Blige, Combs, Thompson, Isaac HayesChucky Thompson, Sean “Puffy” Combs4:55
4.”Be Happy (Bad Boy Butter Remix)”Blige, Combs, DelValle, J.C. Olivier, Curtis MayfieldSean “Puffy” Combs, Poke4:44
5.”Be Happy (Ron G Remix)”Blige, Combs, DelValle, J.C. Olivier, Curtis MayfieldSean “Puffy” Combs, Poke3:42
6.”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry WexlerJames Mtume2:56
- “Mary Jane (All Night Long)” contains interpolations (replayed samples) from “All Night Long” as performed by Mary Jane Girls and “Close the Door” as performed by Teddy Pendergrass
- “You Bring Me Joy” contains a sample of “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me” as performed by Barry White
- “I’m The Only Woman” contains a sample of “Give Me Your Love” as performed by Curtis Mayfield
- “Intro” and “K. Murray Interlude” use the same instrumental as The Notorious B.I.G. song “Who Shot Ya?“, which contains a sample from “I’m Afraid the Masquerade is Over”, as performed by David Porter
- “My Life” contains a sample “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” as performed by Roy Ayers
- “Don’t Go” contains a sample of “Goodbye Love” as performed by Guy and contains re-sung lyrics from “Stay With Me” as performed by DeBarge, and Speak To My Heart as performed by Donnie McClurkin
- “I Love You” contains a sample of “Ike’s Mood” as performed by Isaac Hayes
- “No One Else” contains samples from “Free at Last” as performed by Al Green and a vocal sample from “La Di Da Di” as performed by Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh
- “Be Happy” contains samples from “You’re So Good To Me” as performed by Curtis Mayfield and contains a re-sung vocal sample from “I Want You” as performed by Marvin Gaye
- “I’m Going Down” (Remix) contains a sample of “The What” as performed by The Notorious B.I.G., which also samples “Can’t Say Enough About Mom” performed by Leroy Hutson and “Overnight Sensation” performed by Avalanche
- “Be Happy” (Bad Boy Butter Remix) features additional vocals by Keith Murray, contains samples from “Money (Dollar Bill, Y’all)” as performed by Jimmy Spicer and contains a re-sung vocal sample from “I Want You” as performed by Marvin Gaye
- “Be Happy” (Ron G Remix) features additional vocals by Greg Nice, contains samples from “Chief Rocka” as performed by Lords of the Underground and contains a re-sung vocal sample from “I Want You” as performed by Marvin Gaye
- Andre Harrell – Executive Producer
- Big Bub – Additional Background Vocals
- Bob Brockmann – Recording Engineer, Digital Music Programming, Keyboards, Strings, Mixing
- Bruce Purse – Trumpet
- Prince Charles Alexander – Recording Engineer, Flute, Mixing, Piccolo Flute, Producer, Tenor Saxophone
- Chucky Thompson – Additional Keyboards, Multiple Instruments, Producer
- Dalvin DeGrate – Arranger, Additional Instruments
- Darryl Pearson – Additional Bass
- Debra Young – Production Coordination
- Diane Monroe – Violin
- Eileen Folson – Cello
- Faith Evans – Songwriter, Background Vocals
- Frank Colon – Percussion
- Fred McFarlane – Keyboards
- Gloria Agostini – Harp
- Herb Middleton – Additional Keyboards, Keyboards & All Other Instruments
- Herb Powers – Mastering
- JoDee Stringham – Design
- K-Ci & JoJo – Arranger, Background Vocals
- Keenya Mauldin – Hair Stylist
- Latonya J. Blige – Background Vocals
- Lenny Underwood – Piano
- Lesa Terry – Violin
- Mark Ledford – Trumpet, Producer
- Mary J. Blige – Main Performer, Vocals, Background Vocals
- Nasheim Myrick – Recording Engineer, Producer, Music Programming
- Rashad Smith – Additional Programming
- Regina Carter – Violin
- Richard Travali – Recording Engineer
- Rob Paustian – Recording Engineer, Mixing
- Sam Fine – Make-Up
- Sante D’Orazio – Photography
- Sean “Puffy” Combs – Executive Producer, Producer
- Sybil Pennix – Stylist
- Tim Dawg – Associate Executive Producer
- Tony Maserati – Recording Engineer, Mixing
- Victor Bailey – Bass
- Vincent Henry – Alto Saxophone
- List of number-one R&B albums of 1994 (U.S.)
- List of number-one R&B albums of 1995 (U.S.)
- Billboard Year-End
- ^ Jenkins, Craig (July 10, 2014). “1. Mary J Blige, My Life – The 50 Best R&B albums of the ’90s”. Complex. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
- ^ a b c “American album certifications – Mary J. Blige – My Life”. Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
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- ^ a b c d Williams, Chris. “Mary J. Blige’s My Life LP (1994) revisited with co-producer Chucky Thompson | Return To The Classics”. soulculture.com. Soul Culture. Archived from the original on 2014-08-19. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i “Key Tracks: Mary J. Blige’s My Life”. redbullmusicacademy.com. Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
- ^ Swihart, Stanton. “My Life – Mary J. Blige”. AllMusic. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
- ^ Preston, Rohan B. (December 29, 1994). “Worth The Wait”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
- ^ Hopkins, Tracy (November 25, 1994). “My Life”. Entertainment Weekly. New York. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
- ^ Sullivan, Caroline (December 9, 1994). “Mary J. Blige: My Life (MCA)”. The Guardian. London.
- ^ a b Johnson, Connie (December 25, 1994). “Forget ‘411,’ Mary J., Better Call 911”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- ^ Waring, Charles (December 2020). “Mary J. Blige: My Life”. Mojo. No. 325. London. p. 95.
- ^ a b “Mary J. Blige: My Life”. NME. London. January 7, 1995. p. 34.
- ^ Wood, Sam (December 11, 1994). “Mary J. Blige: My Life (Uptown/MCA) / Carleen Anderson: True Spirit (Virgin Records America)”. The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- ^ Soto, Alfred (November 24, 2020). “Mary J. Blige: My Life”. Pitchfork. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
- ^ Moon, Tom (2004). “Mary J. Blige”. In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 83–84. ISBN 0743201698.
- ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau’s Consumer Guide: Albums of the ’90s. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. xvi, 31. ISBN 0312245602.
- ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (February 1995). “Mary J. Blige: My Life”. Spin. Vol. 10 no. 11. New York. pp. 76–77. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
- ^ Columnist. My Life Accolades Archived2010-06-21 at the Wayback Machine. acclaimedmusic.net. Retrieved on 2010-03-13.
- ^ “500 Greatest Albums of All Time: My Life – Mary J. Blige”. Rolling Stone. New York. November 18, 2003. Archived from the originalon December 20, 2010. Retrieved October 31,2020.
- ^ “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Rolling Stone. New York. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
- ^ “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Rolling Stone. New York. September 22, 2020. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
- ^ Tyrangiel, Josh (November 13, 2006). “The All-TIME 100 Albums – Mary J. Blige: My Life”. Time. New York. Archived from the original on March 7, 2007. Retrieved March 13, 2010.
- ^ 
- ^ https://shop.maryjblige.com/products/my-life-2cd?variant=32368682893386
- ^ “Top RPM Albums: Issue 7989”. RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
- ^ “Dutchcharts.nl – Mary J. Blige – My Life” (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
- ^ “Mary J. Blige | Artist | Official Charts”. UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
- ^ “Mary J. Blige Chart History (Billboard 200)”. Billboard. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
- ^ “Mary J. Blige Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)”. Billboard. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
- ^ “Canadian album certifications – Mary J Blige – My Life”. Music Canada.
- ^ “British album certifications – Mary J Blige – My Life”. British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type My Life in the “Search BPI Awards” field and then press Enter.
- ^ “American album certifications – Mary J Blige – My Life”. Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.
- My Life at Discogs
- My Life accolades at acclaimedmusic.net
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