12 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

No one quite knew what hip-hop soul might be when Mary J. Blige's debut appeared in 1992, but the young singer schooled everyone quickly. What's the 411 is R&B with the street edge restored; there is little old-school showbiz in the stripped-down piano-with-beats "Real Love" or the ghetto-ready Quiet Storm of "Slow Down." Blige here is as likely to deliver lyrics in a staccato, rap-informed blitz as she was to drop melismas. This new sound is irresistible, down to its acknowledgement of roots on the Rufus/Chaka Khan oldie "Sweet Thing." With this album, Blige offers the blueprint that many singers would follow over the next years, though no one quite caught her mercurial personal style.

EDITORS’ NOTES

No one quite knew what hip-hop soul might be when Mary J. Blige's debut appeared in 1992, but the young singer schooled everyone quickly. What's the 411 is R&B with the street edge restored; there is little old-school showbiz in the stripped-down piano-with-beats "Real Love" or the ghetto-ready Quiet Storm of "Slow Down." Blige here is as likely to deliver lyrics in a staccato, rap-informed blitz as she was to drop melismas. This new sound is irresistible, down to its acknowledgement of roots on the Rufus/Chaka Khan oldie "Sweet Thing." With this album, Blige offers the blueprint that many singers would follow over the next years, though no one quite caught her mercurial personal style.

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