What's the 411?

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What's the 411?
Studio album by Mary J. Blige
Released July 28, 1992
Recorded 1991–1992
Genre R&B, hip hop soul, new jack swing
Length 51:59
Label Uptown, MCA
Producer Puff Daddy (exec.), Mark Morales, Mark C. Rooney, Dave Hall, Devante Swing, Tony Dofat
Mary J. Blige chronology
What's the 411?
(1992)
What's the 411? Remix
(1993)
Singles from What's the 411?
  1. "You Remind Me"
    Released: June 23, 1991
  2. "Real Love"
    Released: August 25, 1992
  3. "Reminisce"
    Released: October 13, 1992
  4. "Sweet Thing"
    Released: April 2, 1993
  5. "Love No Limit"
    Released: May 10, 1993

What's the 411? is the debut album by American recording artist Mary J. Blige, released July 28, 1992. Upon being signed to Uptown Records, she began working with record producer Puff Daddy. The album spawned six singles, including "You Remind Me" and "Real Love".

What's the 411? peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 and topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album eventually sold 3.4 million copies and was certified three times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[1] It received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who noted Blige's strong, soulful voice. She was also praised for combining hip hop and soul music, subsequently earning her the title "Queen of Hip Hop Soul".

Background[edit]

At the age of 17, Blige recorded a cover version of Anita Baker's "Caught Up in the Rapture" in a recording booth at a local mall. Her mother's boyfriend at the time later played the cassette to recording artist and A&R runner for Uptown Records, Jeff Redd.[2] Redd then sent it to the president and chief executive officer of the label, Andre Harrell. Blige met with Harrell in 1990 and performed the song for him.[3][4] She was signed to Uptown and became the label's youngest and third female recording artist (after Finesse N' Synquis).[5]

Recording and music[edit]

After being signed to Uptown Records, Blige began working with record producer Puff Daddy.[4] He became the executive producer and produced a majority of the album.[6] The title, What's the 411?, derived from Blige's past occupation as a 4-1-1 operator;[7] it was also an indication by Blige of being the "real deal".[8] The album contains elements of hip hop soul and new jack swing,[9][10] The music was described as "revelatory on a frequent basis".[9] Blige was noted for having a "tough girl persona and streetwise lyrics", which gave the album "a gritty undertone and a realism missing from much of the devotional love songs ruling the charts at that time".[11] Havelock Nelson of Entertainment Weekly expressed that Blige "bends her gospel-bred pipes around streetwise collages consisting of hard drumbeats, rugged rap samples, and hazy synthesizer lines", describing déjà vu of "the most accomplished fusions of soul values and hip-hop to date".[12]

The album begins with "Leave a Message", a collection of Blige's answering machine messages over a drum beat. The following two tracks, "Reminisce" and "You Remind Me", are melancholy songs that are overlaid with hip hop beats.[13] A cover of Chaka Khan's "Sweet Thing" followed.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[9]
BBC Music (favorable)[15]
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention)[16]
Entertainment Weekly A[12]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[17]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[11]

What's the 411? received generally favorable reviews from music critics. Blige received comparisons to recording artists Chaka Khan, Caron Wheeler and Anita Baker.[9][12] Her voice was described as "powerful" and "soulful". David O'Donnell of BBC Music complimented Blige's "sweet, soulful vocals", in line with Puff Daddy's "rough, jagged, hip-hop beats made for a winning combination that remains".[15] The album led to Blige being dubbed as the reigning "Queen of Hip Hop Soul".[9] Stanton Swihart of Allmusic called the album "the decade's most explosive, coming-out displays of pure singing prowess".[9] O'Donnell argued that the album is "one of the most important albums of the nineties".[15] The album earned Blige two Soul Train Music Awards in 1993: Best New R&B Artist and Best R&B Album, Female.[18]

What's the 411? peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 and topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[19] It also peaked at number 53 on the UK Albums Chart.[20] It was certified three times Platinum by the RIAA.[21] Blige became the best new female R&B artist of 1993 in the United States.[22] As of August 2010, the album has sold 3,318,000 copies in the US.[23]

Legacy[edit]

Blige's combination of vocals over a hip hop beat became influential in R&B.[24] She has been credited for creating the hybrid genre hip hop soul, as well as pioneering what became neo soul.[9][11] Along with Puff Daddy, Blige attributed to the "sample-heavy sound that reinvigorated urban radio", which became "a blueprint for nineties hip-hop and R&B".[25]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Leave a Message"  
  • Sean "Puffy" Combs,
  • Tony Dofat
  • Dofat
  • Combs
3:38
2. "Reminisce"   Dave Hall, Sean "Puffy" Combs 5:24
3. "Real Love"   Mark Morales, Mark C. Rooney Mark Morales, Mark C. Rooney 4:32
4. "You Remind Me"   Hall, Eric Milteer Dave Hall 4:19
5. "Intro Talk" (featuring Busta Rhymes) Dofat, Busta Rhymes Tony Dofat, Sean "Puffy" Combs 2:17
6. "Sweet Thing"   Khan, Tony Maiden Mark Morales, Mark C. Rooney 3:46
7. "Love No Limit"   Greene, Hall Dave Hall 5:01
8. "I Don't Want to Do Anything" (featuring K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci) Devante Swing DeVante Swing 5:52
9. "Slow Down"   Rooney, Morales, Joseph E. Keeley Mark Morales, Mark C. Rooney 4:33
10. "My Love"   Greene, Hall Dave Hall 4:14
11. "Changes I've Been Going Through"   Combs, Morales, Rooney Sean "Puffy" Combs, Mark Morales, Mark C. Rooney 5:15
12. "What's the 411?" (featuring Grand Puba) Dofat, M. Dixon Tony Dofat, Sean "Puffy" Combs 4:13
Sample credits
  • "Leave a Message (Intro)" contains a sample of "P.S.K. - What Does It Mean?" as performed by Schoolly D.
  • "Reminisce" contains a sample of "Stop, Look, Listen" as performed by MC Lyte.
  • "Real Love" contains a sample of "Top Billin'" as performed by Audio Two.
  • "You Remind Me" contains a sample of "Remind Me" as performed by Patrice Rushen.
  • "Intro Talk (Interlude)" contains a sample of "Hydra" as performed by Grover Washington, Jr..
  • "Sweet Thing" contains a sample of "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" as performed by Barry White.
  • "Changes I've Been Going Through" contains a sample of "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz" as performed by Biz Markie.
  • "What's the 411?" contains a sample of "Pride and Vanity" as performed by the Ohio Players; "Very Special" as performed by Debra Laws.

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1992) Peak
position
Certification
UK Albums Chart[20] 53
U.S. Billboard 200[19] 6 Platinum[21]
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[19] 1

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ramirez, Erika (28 July 2012). "Mary J. Blige, 'What's The 411?' at 20: Classic Track-By-Track Review". Billboard. Billboard. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Whetstone, Muriel L. (October 1995). "Goin' Down and Up with Mary J. Blige". FindArticles. CBS Corporation. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  3. ^ Watrous, Peter (1992-08-26). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  4. ^ a b "Stardom Shaped By the Street and the Makers of Image". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 1995-08-05. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  5. ^ "Mary J. Blige: Biography". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  6. ^ Reid, Shaheem; Oh, Minya (2003-03-14). "Mary J. Blige Teams Up with 50 Cent, P. Diddy to Discuss Love and Life". MTV News. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  7. ^ Yeransian, Leslie (2006-06-22). "Mary J. Blige: From the Projects to Hip-Hop Soul Queen". ABC News. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  8. ^ Bailey 2009, p. 15
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Swihart, Stanton. "Whats the 411? - Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  10. ^ DiMartino, Dave (1992-11-20). "Close-up: Mary J. Blige". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  11. ^ a b c Nathan Brackett; Christian Hoard (2004). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. p. 83. 
  12. ^ a b c Nelson, Havelock (1992-08-07). "What's the 411? - Music Review". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  13. ^ "Mary J Blige, Rose Hall, New York 16 October". The Observer. Guardian News & Media. 2005-11-20. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  14. ^ "Blige's Biggest". The News & Observer. The McClatchy Company. 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2009-07-24. [dead link]
  15. ^ a b c O'Donnell, David (2008-12-12). "Mary J. Blige What's The 411? Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: What's the 411?". Robert Christgau. Retrieved on 2010-02-02.
  17. ^ Johnson, Connie. "Review: What's the 411?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2010-02-16.
  18. ^ Warner & 2008, p. 325
  19. ^ a b c "What's the 411? (1992)". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  20. ^ a b "Chart Stats: Mary J. Blige - What's the 411?". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  21. ^ a b "RIAA - Gold & Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  22. ^ McAleer 1995, p. 307
  23. ^ Grein, Paul (2010-08-29). "Chart Watch Extra: 40 who died before 40". Yahoo!. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  24. ^ Horan, Tom (2002-04-23). "Blige blows Brum's socks off". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  25. ^ Brown, Ethan (1999-09-13). "There's Something About Mary". New York. New York Media. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 

References[edit]

  • Bailey, Diane (2009). Mary J. Blige. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 1-4358-5055-6. 
  • Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian David (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  • McAleer, Dave (1995). All Music Book of Hit Albums: The Top 10 U.S. and U.K. Album Charts from 1960 to the Present Day. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-87930-393-X. 
  • Warner, Jay (2008). Notable Moments of Women in Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 1-4234-2951-6. 

External links[edit]