The Daily Telegraph: Helping hand Putting her soul into it

January 25, 2011

MARY J. Blige is the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, a label which has appeared as a trademark next to her name ever since she dropped her debut record What's The 411 back in 1992. 
So it seems incongruous for Blige to headline the annual Raggamuffin festival which is, for all intents and purposes, a reggae-flavoured event. Not so, says Blige, who insists she has been immersed in the genre that grew out of Jamaica in the late 1960s for most of her life.

"Reggae music was part of my childhood; my next-door neighbours were West Indian. In my culture, reggae has always been a huge influence, right along with hip-hop and r&b, so it's not that far from the roots of what I do," she says.

Blige enlisted Busta Rhymes and rising reggae star Gyptian for the Caribbean-flavoured Anything You Want and has become a champion for the lower profile Jamaican singer. She took him on her UK tour to open two nights at London's O2 stadium.

 "In this case, we sought him out; he's amazing and he's hot and everybody loves him in music circles over here," she says.

"With that song, I really wanted people to listen deeper and bring my audience and a reggae audience together."

The No More Dramas singer, a superstar in her own right in the US, is revered by the international music industry and has shared stages with everyone from Bono to Shakira and was named the most successful female r&b artist of the past 25 years by Billboard in 2010.

Blige doesn't need the assistance of the latest hottest thing to boost her chart fortunes but as a solo artist, likes the opportunity to collaborate when she can and the song warrants a duet or rap cameo.

"You can't use someone just because they are hot, which is what everyone else is doing these days," she says. "For it to work, the song has to need someone on it, it has to be necessary. Then it can be a match made in heaven."

It is Blige's first Australian tour -- previous visits have been scheduled but fell over at the last minute.
Fans can expect to hear a retrospective of her entire career after keeping us waiting this long.

"The setlist will be the one you have been waiting to hear," she says, laughing. "I can't sing every song I have but I've put together a great list of songs and it has been going over well with the fans."

The Raggamuffin festival also features Sean Paul, Maxi Priest, the Original Wailers, Jimmy Cliff and more, Parramatta Park; Friday, gates open 1pm, $99, 136 100,


To purchase tickets: click here --->


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