ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF THE NEW JACK SWING ERA: “WHAT’S THE 411?”

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On July 28, 1992, Mary J. Blige’s debut album “What’s the 411?” was released. Her first single, “You Remind Me,” was an infectious uptempo tune written and produced by Dave “Jam” Hall. It set the tone for the album’s success. Blige, like Jodeci the previous year, had her look and style orchestrated by a now Uptown Records executive Sean “Puffy” Combs. Combs had Mary dressed like a female version of Jodeci. The result was seen in her next single and first music video, “Real Love.” In that video of another infectious dance track co-written and produced by Fat Boys member Prince Marky Dee and Mark Rooney, Blige and her backup dancers are dressed as tomboys in full baseball caps and jerseys. While both songs were excellent records and top five Billboard R&B hits, it was her next single and video that made her my favorite female singer of all time.

In the fall of 1992, “Reminisce,” written and produced by Hall, was released. The formula of uptempo dance tracks was continued. It was the accompanying music video that caught my attention. Unlike her first video, Blige wasn’t dressed as a tomboy. She was dressed in a white halter top and white stretch pants. Her then 21 year old body had a figure uncommon in the music world. The outfit she wore in this video accentuated her magnificent figure. It was the first time I ever wanted to rip through a television screen and be with a woman. Mary’s figure, as seen in the video, was a small waist with naturally muscular legs and a derrière out of this world. I became hooked on everything Mary J. Blige. To this day, I’m still a huge fan. “Reminisce” would go as high as number six on the R&B charts.

My single, favorite track on the album was her duet with Jodeci, written and produced by Devante Swing: “I Don’t Want to Do Anything?” In my opinion, this was the most soulful song ever sung by Mary. When you listen to her and K-Ci declaring their eternal love, you swear they were in love with each other. Fact is, they were at the time a real life couple. The passion that both of them sang with was incredible. Listen to the song and you feel nothing but unconditional passion from both singers: “K] Will you love me. M] I will love you. K] Will you please me. M] I will please you. K] Girl, don’t leave me. M] I won’t leave you. K] Let’s make it easy. M] I’ll make it easy. K] Will you love me. M] I will love you. K] Will you please me. M] I will please you, you, you. K] Girl, don’t leave me. M] I won’t leave you. K] Let’s make it easy.” Although never released as a single, this song, in my opinion, along with Keith Sweat and Jacci McGhee’s “Make it Last Forever,” were the greatest duets in the New Jack Swing Era.

“What’s the 411” is not only one of the greatest New Jack Swing albums of all time, it’s one of the greatest R&B albums of all time. Every track is excellent. You hear a 21 year old Mary J. Blige whose voice has yet to be affected by drugs and alcohol. It would sell almost four million records and was the impetus for Hip Hop Soul, the bastard child of New Jack Swing. Mary’s relationship with K-Ci would become very ugly and violent. That relationship would be the foundation of her next album, “My Life.” That album was the bridge between the end of New Jack Swing and the beginning of Hip Hop Soul, which Mary is recognized as its Queen.

WHAT’S THE 411?-TRACKLIST
1 Leave A Message
2 You Don’t Have To Worry
3 My Love
4 Real Love
5 What’s The 411?
6 Reminisce
7 Mary & Andre
8 Sweet Thing
9 Love No Limit
10 You Remind Me
11 Changes I’ve Been Going Through
12 I Don’t Want To Do Anything

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