The Queen of Hip Hop Soul is solid­i­fy­ing her long over­due place among the best of the best.

Mary J. Blige has been nom­in­ated as an induct­ee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

Oth­er nom­in­ees include Jay Z, Tina Turn­er, Dionne War­rick, The Go Gos, and the Foo Fight­ers.

The ques­tion begs what took so long?

Ever since burst­ing onto the scene in 1992 with the release of her debut What’s the 411?, Mary J. has been to hip hop what Bessie Smith and Bil­lie Hol­i­day were to the blues, Nina Simone to Jazz, Aretha Frank­lin was to R&B, and fel­low nom­in­ee Tina Turn­er to Rock n Roll.

An unapo­lo­get­ic black woman singing her life story with the same raw­ness and authen­ti­city as her pre­de­cessors with a sound of her own.

Emer­ging out of the Yonkers pro­jects in New York and endur­ing abuse, poverty, addic­tion, and divorce along the way has made Mary J. the optime of sur­viv­or.

Her calls for lib­er­a­tion and free­dom from the white suprem­acist patri­carchy became a ral­ly­ing cry for so many women.

Dr. Treva B. Lind­sey, Asso­ci­ate Pro­fess­or of Women’s, Gender, and Sexu­al­ity Stud­ies at Ohio State Uni­ver­sity with a focus on hip hop and black fem­in­ism explains the queen in full prop­er con­text and then some.

What do you think Mary brought to hip hop that has allowed to have longev­ity?

Real­ness and sin­cer­ity. Through­out her career, Mary J. Blige has always giv­en us songs and per­form­ances that appear to arise from the depths of her soul. There’s a vul­ner­ab­il­ity in her music and her per­form­ances that res­on­ates on a pro­found level. Hip hop pivots around com­pel­ling storytelling. Blige is one of the best storytellers. The real­ism of her lyr­ics coupled with the way she sings and per­forms endears her hip hop audi­ences.

How do you put Mary’s leg­acy into the con­text of black fem­in­ism?

Truth-telling is a key Black fem­in­ist prac­tice. Black fem­in­ists tell the stor­ies of Black women with candor, com­plex­ity, and nuance. Bli­ge’s dis­co­graphy explores pain, love, ecstasy, fear, loss, long­ing, and a whole host of emo­tions derived from Black women’s interi­or lives. Mary J. Blige also fits with­in a blues leg­acy with­in Black fem­in­ism as explored by Angela Dav­is. This blues leg­acy includes Black women singing about their lived exper­i­ences and the weight of racism, sex­ism, and oth­er oppress­ive forces in their lives. Undeni­ably, Blige has been a soul­ful addi­tion to this leg­acy.

How do you define the leg­acy of Mary J. Blige?

She’s the Queen of Hip Hop Soul and so much more. She became a legend on her own terms. She lets us into the dark places in her own life to provide us with a soundtrack for our most chal­len­ging moments. She also gave and gives us songs that make us smile and affirm the power of love. She has range and depth. Blige is uniquely gif­ted at con­nect­ing with her audi­ence. She’s unfuck­wit­able force who shows no signs of stop­ping.

Mary J. Blige is immor­tal and her place among the greats in Clev­e­land is just the latest affirm­a­tion of her con­tri­bu­tions that go way bey­ond the music.

We can­not be without her and that is just fine.

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
Zachary Draves
I am a viol­ence pre­ven­tion edu­cat­or, act­iv­ist, journ­al­ist, aspir­ing film­maker, adjunct pro­fess­or of social justice and civic engage­ment at Domin­ic­an Uni­ver­sity in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chica­go, Illinois.

About Zachary Draves

Zachary Draves
I am a violence prevention educator, activist, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, adjunct professor of social justice and civic engagement at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chicago, Illinois.