On THIS date in 1992, something changed. Everything changed. It’s the day Yonkers’ own Mary Jane Blige released her debut project, What’s the 411?. So many folks talk about My Life being her magnum opus (it was amazing, and the documentary detailing its greatness on Amazon Prime got me all in my feels), but honestly… this album was just as good. It spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and has sold 3.4 million in the U.S. And with Diddy in charge and his squad rolling out the visuals and remixes, it truly is a legendary beginning for the now-cemented “Queen of Hip Hop Soul.”
Below are a few of my favorite tracks from the disc. What were some of yours? And if you were throwing an MJB party, which song from 411 would you use to kick things off?
Happy 29th Anniversary, What’s the 411?!
When this album dropped, I worked nights at Apple Bank out on Long Island. That was job was one of the best I ever had, like a Drake song. Not because of the work, to be sure, but because of the people. The atmosphere. What I was able to get away with while working there (well, that’s a story for my book, actually. Heh). Anyway, when I used to work the Sunday-Tuesday 12 hour night shift, my supervisor was Debra, a young Black lady with a really dope singing voice. We’d put this CD on and jam to it for hours. And THIS became our favorite track. The way MJB rides over the track still makes me smile, and brings back memories of good times at work.
“Love No Limit“
This song became so iconic because it was the first time we got a taste of MJB’s lower register. I mean, when she belts out the lyrics “Don’t you look no more” you kinda had to listen to her. It’s also one of the many songs on the album that got remixed, and the drum-heavy Uptown version stands on its own, if not higher than the original version. You haven’t heard the remix? Well, “take my hand and follow me” then.
“You Remind Me“
This song was used to test our love for MJB before the album dropped. It appeared on the Strictly Business soundtrack in 1991 and understood its assignment: whetting our appetite for what was to come. In fact, it didn’t just create buzz. It created a swarm of folks–especially in New York–that impatiently waited for the project’s debut. It will always be a personal favorite of mine, because it was the first and because I played it so much from the soundtrack that I came up with my own, um, eight bars to accompany the track. IYKYK. And a lot of people know. Heh.
Now this–THIS–not only served as a follow up to “You Remind Me” and the real introduction to What’s the 411? but also lived on and on and on due to the Notorious B.I.G.-featured, Prince Markie Dee + Corey Rooney written, Schoolly D. + EPMD + Betty Wright sampled remix. It was a monster and solidified this song as MJB’s first classic. Put it on at any party today. I dare you. Some in attendance will either do the choreo from the video or the MJB dance, for sure. But EVERYONE will recite the Biggie verse, word for word. I guarantee it.
“Reminisce (Remix) feat. Pete Rock + C.L. Smooth“
You would think, given my affection for Pete Rock + C.L. Smooth‘s classic “They Reminisce Over You”, that this song would rank higher for me. And in actuality, it does. However, since this remix that features the Mt. Vernon duo doesn’t appear on the original 411, it has to settle for this placing on the list. But goodness… it’s a perfect song and the perfect way to build on the “reminisce” vibe that “T.R.O.Y.” unleashed on hip hop the year before. Just genius. Excuse me as I bob my head to this.