What's the 411?

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What's the 411?
What'sThe411?.jpg
Studio album by Mary J. Blige
Released July 28, 1992 (1992-07-28)
Genre
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, 1992
  2. "Real Love"
    Released: August 25, 1992[1]
  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 on July 28, 1992 by Uptown/MCA Records . 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".

The album peaked at number six on the US Billboard 200 and topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album eventually sold 3.4 million copies and was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[2] 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.[3] 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.[4][5] She was signed to Uptown and became the label's youngest and third female recording artist (after Finesse N' Synquis).[6]

Recording and music[edit]

After being signed to Uptown Records, Blige began working with record producer Puff Daddy.[5] He became the executive producer and produced a majority of the album.[7] The title, What's the 411?, derived from Blige's past occupation as a 4-1-1 operator;[8] it was also an indication by Blige of being the "real deal".[9] The music was described as "revelatory on a frequent basis".[10] Blige was noted for having a "tough girl persona and streetwise lyrics".[11]

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.[12] A cover of Chaka Khan's "Sweet Thing" followed.[13]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[10]
Chicago Tribune 2/4 stars[14]
Christgau's Consumer Guide (1-star Honorable Mention)[15]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[16]
Entertainment Weekly A[17]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[18]
MusicHound R&B 3/5[19]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[11]

What's the 411? was released on July 28, 1992, to positive reviews from critics.[20] In Entertainment Weekly, Havelock Nelson hailed it as "one of the most accomplished fusions of soul values and hip-hop to date" while comparing Blige's "powerful voice" to Khan, Anita Baker, and Caron Wheeler.[17] Connie Johnson from the Los Angeles Times was particularly impressed by her rendition of "Sweet Thing" and "You Remind Me", calling the latter track "one of those perfect singer-to-song matches" [18] and Dave DiMartino, said that the record's commercial success and Blige's "powerful, soulful voice and hip-hop attitude", she "solidly connected with an audience that has never seen a woman do new jack swing but loves it just the same".[21] According to Dave McAleer, Blige became the most successful new female R&B artist of 1992 in the United States.[22] People magazine said the album succeeded because of Blige's "fly-girl attitude" and singing ability, even though "she may not be Chaka Khan or Gladys Knight".[23] Mitchell May was more critical in the Chicago Tribune, writing that aside from the title track and "Sweet Thing", What's the 411? was marred by dull production and "silly lyrics" depriving the singer of self-esteem.[14] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was largely unimpressed, grading the album a "dud" in his consumer guide.[24] He later upgraded his score to a one-star honorable mention—indicating "a worthy effort that consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well like"; he named "Sweet Thing" and "Real Love" as highlights while writing that "real is not enough, but attached to the right voice it's something to build on".[15] According to Entertainment Weekly's Dave DiMartino, with the record's commercial success and Blige's "powerful, soulful voice and hip-hop attitude", she "solidly connected with an audience that has never seen a woman do new jack swing but loves it just the same".[21] According to Dave McAleer, Blige became the most successful new female R&B artist of 1992 in the United States.[22] What's the 411? earned her two Soul Train Music Awards in 1993: Best New R&B Artist and Best R&B Album, Female.[25] It was also voted the year's 30th best album in the Pazz & Jop—an annual poll of American critics nationwide, published by The Village Voice.[26]

What's the 411? has since been viewed by critics as one of the 1990s' most important records.[20] Blige's combination of vocals over a hip hop beat proved influential in contemporary R&B.[27] With the album, she was dubbed the reigning "Queen of Hip Hop Soul", Stanton Swihart wrote in a retrospective review for AllMusic. He called it "the decade's most explosive, coming-out displays of pure singing prowess".[10] According to David O'Donnell from BBC Music, What's the 411? was groundbreaking in its fusion of R&B hooks and hip hop beats, creating the formula for the contemporary R&B of the following decade. He complimented Blige's "sweet, soulful vocals", in line with Puff Daddy's "rough, jagged, hip-hop beats made for a winning combination that remains remains one of Blige's finest albums".[28] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Tom Moon wrote that with the album, Blige offered "a gritty undertone and a realism missing from much of the devotional love songs ruling the charts at that time."[11]

Commercial performance[edit]

What's the 411? peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 and topped the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[29] It also peaked at number 53 on the UK Albums Chart.[30] It went on to sell over 3.4 million copies in the United States and was certified triple platinum by the RIAA for sales of over three million copies.[31] By August 2010, the album had sold 3,318,000 copies in the US.[32]

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"  
  • Hall
  • Combs
5:24
3. "Real Love"  
  • Morales
  • Rooney
4:32
4. "You Remind Me"  
  • Hall
  • Eric Milteer
Hall 4:19
5. "Intro Talk" (featuring Busta Rhymes)
  • Dofat
  • Busta Rhymes
  • Dofat
  • Combs
2:17
6. "Sweet Thing"  
  • Morales
  • Rooney
3:46
7. "Love No Limit"  
  • Greene
  • Hall
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
  • Morales
  • Rooney
4:33
10. "My Love"  
  • Greene
  • Hall
Hall 4:14
11. "Changes I've Been Going Through"  
  • Combs
  • Morales
  • Rooney
  • Combs
  • Morales
  • Rooney
5:15
12. "What's the 411?" (featuring Grand Puba)
  • Dofat
  • Maxwell Dixon
  • Dofat
  • 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]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1992) Peak
position
UK Albums (OCC)[33] 53
US Billboard 200[34] 6
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[35] 1

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[36] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[37] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Amazon.com: Mary J. Blige: Real Love: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ Ramirez, Erika (28 July 2012). "Mary J. Blige, 'What's The 411?' at 20: Classic Track-By-Track Review". Billboard. Billboard. Archived from the original on 2013-09-26. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Whetstone, Muriel L. (October 1995). "Goin' Down and Up with Mary J. Blige". FindArticles. CBS Corporation. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  4. ^ Watrous, Peter (1992-08-26). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "Mary J. Blige: Biography". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Archived from the original on 2010-02-17. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  7. ^ Reid, Shaheem; Oh, Minya (2003-03-14). "Mary J. Blige Teams Up with 50 Cent, P. Diddy to Discuss Love and Life". MTV News. Archived from the original on 2005-05-01. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  8. ^ Yeransian, Leslie (2006-06-22). "Mary J. Blige: From the Projects to Hip-Hop Soul Queen". ABC News. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  9. ^ Bailey 2009, p. 15
  10. ^ a b c Swihart, Stanton. "Whats the 411? - Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  11. ^ a b c Moon, Tom (2004). "Mary J. Blige". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. pp. 83–4. ISBN 0743201698. 
  12. ^ "Mary J Blige, Rose Hall, New York 16 October". The Observer. Guardian News & Media. 2005-11-20. Archived from the original on 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  13. ^ "Blige's Biggest". The News & Observer. The McClatchy Company. 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2009-07-24. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b May, Mitchell (November 12, 1992). "Mary J. Blige What's the 411? (MCA)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan. pp. xvi, 31. ISBN 0312245602. 
  16. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Mary J. Blige". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0857125958. 
  17. ^ a b Nelson, Havelock (1992-08-07). "What's the 411? - Music Review". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Archived from the original on 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  18. ^ a b Johnson, Connie (December 6, 1992). "Holiday Gift-Giving--The Hints of '92". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  19. ^ Graff, Gary; du Lac, Josh Freedom; McFarlin, Jim, eds. (1998). "Mary J. Blige". MusicHound R&B: The Essential Album Guide. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 1578590264. 
  20. ^ a b Dawes, Laina (December 1, 2014). "Mary J Blige's "My Life" Turns 20". Cuepoint. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  21. ^ a b DiMartino, Dave (1992-11-20). "Close-up: Mary J. Blige". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  22. ^ a b McAleer 1995, p. 307
  23. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Mary J. Blige". People. Vol. 38 no. 26. December 28, 1992. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  24. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 26, 1993). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved September 17, 2016. 
  25. ^ Warner & 2008, p. 325
  26. ^ "Pazz & Jop". The Village Voice. March 2, 1993. p. 5. 
  27. ^ Horan, Tom (2002-04-23). "Blige blows Brum's socks off". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  28. ^ O'Donnell, David (2008-12-12). "Mary J. Blige What's The 411? Review". BBC Music. Archived from the original on 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  29. ^ "What's the 411? (1992)". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  30. ^ "Chart Stats: Mary J. Blige - What's the 411?". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  31. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved 2009-07-24. 
  32. ^ Grein, Paul (2010-08-29). "Chart Watch Extra: 40 who died before 40". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 2010-09-04. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  33. ^ "Mary J. Blige | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  34. ^ "Mary J. Blige – Chart history" Billboard 200 for Mary J. Blige. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  35. ^ "Mary J. Blige – Chart history" Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums for Mary J. Blige. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  36. ^ "British album certifications – Mary J Blige – What's the 411?". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter What's the 411? in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  37. ^ "American album certifications – Mary J Blige – What's the 411?". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

References[edit]

  • Bailey, Diane (2009). Mary J. Blige. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4358-5055-2. 
  • Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian David (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. 
  • 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 978-0-87930-393-8. 
  • Warner, Jay (2008). Notable Moments of Women in Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4234-2951-7. 

External links[edit]