Mary J. Blige released the album “Good Morning Gorgeous” ahead of her Super Bowl performance alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.

When Sean “Puffy” Combs christened Mary J. Blige the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” he hit the nail squarely on the head.

Prior to 1990, hip-hop had its own lane and R&B had its own lane.

Because of generational and cultural differences, the two genres did not always get along.

The older and more “refined” segment of the culture preferred soul music, while hip-hop stereotypically catered to the young and forgotten people of the inner city.

But when Bell Biv Devoe combined the two genres on their groundbreaking debut album “Poison,” the game totally changed.

A year later Jodeci followed with their classic debut, “Forever My Lady.”

And 1992 saw the debuts of TLC and Mary J. Blige.

And as they say, the rest is history.

In anticipation of Blige’s Super Bowl halftime performance alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, ranks the top 10 songs in Blige’s 30-year reign as the undisputed queen of hip-hop soul.


  1. “Rainy Dayz” featuring Ja Rule—When Blige collaborated with Ja Rule on “Rainy Dayz” in 2001, they were two of the biggest artists in R&B and hip-hop, respectively. But what makes a song a classic is a message that everyone can relate to. Everyone must endure those rainy days as they hope and pray for sunshine again. As Blige says, no one loves the rain. But we must handle it until those brighter days come.


  1. “Not Gon’ Cry”—When “Waiting to Exhale” dropped in 1995, the soundtrack might have created more of a lasting impact than the film based on Terry McMillan’s novel. Sure, many ladies loved the movie and many men loathed it. But arguably no one hated on the soundtrack written and produced by Babyface. And as much as some men hated on the film, they had to feel for Bernadette (Angela Bassett) and the song the encapsulated her failed marriage. She gave her man 11 years of her life, helped him get his business off the ground and gave birth to his children. But he still left her for another woman. Uh-oh!


  1. “No More Drama”—Hate to say it, but Blige makes better music when she is experiencing heartbreak as opposed to enjoying a happy relationship. Unfortunately, many ladies can relate to her pain because they have experienced similar drama in their lives. With the “Young and the Restless” theme song interpolation, Blige straight up said no one would make her hurt or cry again. She wanted no more drama in her life. Much respect!


  1. “Be Happy”—A sophomore slump meant absolutely nothing to Blige, as she scored more hits on her “My Life” album like the single, “Be Happy.” The song contained a simple message also. All she really wanted was to be happy and to find love. But nothing in life (especially relationships) is ever so simple. To be happy in a relationship, Blige sings she first must be happy with herself. Happy enough to not put up with nonsense in a relationship.


  1. “Family Affair”—A person truly reaches icon status when they start creating new vernacular. Rapper E-40 made a career out of creating his own language. Lil Wayne created “bling-bling” and Destiny’s Child created “bootylicious.” But on the Dr. Dre produced “Family Affair,” Blige created three words: “hateration,” “holleration” and “dancery” on one song. That some queen “ish” right there. Hopefully, she turns her Super Bowl performance into a “dancery” by performing this classic.


  1. “Reminisce”—People never forget true love. Often, people will reminisce on the love that they once shared with a person. On “Reminisce” from her debut album “What’s the 411?” Blige sang, “I recall the days and ways of love we made, I still feel the heat, when we shared each other, Don’t you feel the magic? The mysteries in the air, Let’s go down to lover’s lane, with the love we shared.”


  1. “Love is All We Need” featuring Nas—It’s hard to go wrong when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis write and produce a track for you. It becomes even harder when Nas blesses you with a rap verse. Love is truly all we need. But to make a hit, Jam, Lewis, Nas and vocals by Blige are all you really need too. The song hit number two on the hip-hop/R&B charts. But it reached the top spot on the dance charts.


  1. “Love No Limit”—The fifth and final single from Blige’s debut album dropped as a single on May 10, 1993. It reached number 44 on the pop charts. Upon its release, Larry Flick of Billboard wrote, “Once again, her sultry, delightfully seasoned voice melts into a jazzy hip-hop groove. Romantic, swaying gem could become an instant fave at several radio formats. Give in to it.” Mark Kinchen of Music Week’s RM Dance Update said about the song, “Imagine a smoke-filled jazz club with Blige singing in a deep seductive voice over a very smooth basic R&B track. You’ve got the picture.”


  1. “You Remind Me”—This track will remain special as it pertains to Blige’s impressive catalog because it will always be her first single, ever. Before finding a studio album home on “What’s The 411?” the track appeared on the soundtrack to the 1991 movie “Strictly Business,” which starred Halle Berry, Tommy Davidson and Joseph C. Phillips from “The Cosby Show.” The song “You Remind Me” hit number 29 on the pop charts.


  1. “Real Love”—Although “You Remind Me” dropped first, “Real Love” made Blige a bonafide R&B superstar in 1992. She had the voice to contend with all her contemporaries. But she looked more like a homegirl from around the way than a diva. “Real Love” used a sample of “Top Billin’” from the rap group Audio Two and gave her the first true pop hit of her career, peaking at number seven on the pop charts. Although music writer James Masterton thought “it’s not commercial enough to be a major hit,” Blige proved him and others wrong. And she’s been shining ever since like a true queen.
Todd A. Smith
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