Often called the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul," R&B singer Mary Jane Blige (1971-) was born on this day and raised in the projects of New York City. She began singing in her church choir at age of seven.
"When you're seven, you know how to love. You know how to openly trust without having fear about it," she explained.
A karaoke version of Anita Baker's Rapture recorded at the mall led to Blige scoring a record contract and the big time in 1992 with What's the 411? "Singing to us was like eating... We was (sic) singing anywhere we would go," the soul diva said.
With street-smart strut and a passionate voice influenced by Aretha Franklin, Blige's music is a celebration of spirituality and strength, showing her triumph over abusive relationships and low self-esteem.
"In every ghetto, hip-hop is a big deal," she revealed. "And I know real hip-hop when I hear it because I'm from that element, and that's all we had: block parties and DJs that never made it out."
A survivor who has evolved into a strong symbol of empowerment, Blige said in 2001, "I'm walking without fear. And if there are mistakes to be made, I'll make them. Learn from them and keep on going."
Stand tall and celebrate life!