Mary J. Blige
Blige's musical career began after she recorded "Caught Up in the Rapture" (Anita Baker) with a mall karaoke machine. The tape found its way to Uptown Records, who signed her as a back-up singer. Up-and-coming producer Sean "Puffy" Combs took an interest, however, and helped her with her critically acclaimed debut, What's the 411? (1991, 1991 in music). The album's mix of hip hop and soul music is sometimes called the beginning of nu soul.
The follow-up, My Life, was much less successful, and Blige soon left Uptown for MCA Records, hiring Suge Knight as a financial advisor. In 1996 Blige scored a modest hit with "Not Gon' Cry," a song she contributed to the soundtrack for the movie Waiting To Exhale. With Share My World (1997, 1997 in music), Blige began working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; the album was a commercial success, though reviews were mixed. Mary (1999, 1999 in music) also received mixed reviews, though the album still sold well. Her latest album is 2001's No More Drama. The first single, "Family Affair," shot straight to number one on Billboard's pop charts in the fall of 2001, becoming Blige's biggest hit single to date. The title track and "Rainy Dayz" featuring Ja Rule, one of the most popular rappers of the time, also became two of Blige's biggest pop hits to date in 2002.