Whatâs the 411?<br />
Mary J. Blige's Classic Turns 20

What’s the 411?
Mary J. Blige's Classic Turns 20

We chat with some of the producers responsible for the record that crowned Mary the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul"

Chris Williams

by Chris Williams, July 24, 2012

Whatâs the 411?<br />
Mary J. Blige's Classic Turns 20

Mary J. Blige - What's the 411?

advantage of by a lot of the industry cats and a song like ‘Real Love’ described her situation.

One day, she said with tears in her eyes, ‘I just want a real love in my life for once.’ We wrote four or five songs before ‘Real Love’ came together for her. Those songs were more on a Stephanie Mills type of vibe, but no one was really feeling them. She was so emotional back then. Sometimes, we would be in the studio and she would have tears in her eyes. Right in the middle of a take, you wouldn’t hear anything in the dark vocal booth. We would wonder if she was still in there. She would be in there, but her emotions took over. All of these records started becoming real life records for her. This whole album’s design was directed by Puffy. It was his idea. He said it needed to be hip-hop with classic R&B on top of it.”

Hall recounts how the lead single “You Remind Me” had many layers within it.

“You Remind Me” was the first record we did together,” says Hall. “I was a big Biz Markie fan and I sampled his song, ‘Pickin’ Boogers.’ I sampled it and chopped it up and then I put a real pretty song on top of it. Kenny Greene didn’t write this song. A writer that I used to work with back then by the name of Eric Milteer wrote this song. We went to church together. We were just vibin’ to the music because it was bangin’. I put a nice chord progression on top of it as well and I gave it that church kind of feel.

I used some ideas from another artist that I loved by the name of Patrice Rushen. She had a song called; ‘You Remind Me’ and I liked the tone of her song. I took some of the influences from there and we tried to make a spin on it that was contemporary at the time. The song came out well, but the label didn’t really understand it though. I really don’t think they understood the whole project besides Diddy. He was a minor A&R at the label back then, but had the ear and vision for what he wanted to do.”

“You Remind Me” went on to peak at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #1 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and #48 on the UK Singles Chart. It helped to generate steam for the sales of What’s the 411? after its international release. The second single to be released from the album would be the equally iconic, “Real Love," which went on to peak at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #1 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and #26 on the UK Singles Chart.

Rooney tells a fascinating story of how “Real Love” transpired.

“Real Love” was the first song we did because we actually recorded it two years before the album came out,” says Rooney. “We did it at our home studio. The other thing about ‘Real Love’ is that when it came time to use the song for the album, I told Puffy I wanted to go back in and reproduce it. I wanted to take the sample out and replay the drums. He said, ‘No, No, No!’ I told him I wasn’t going to give away my publishing to Milk and Gears when we can play our own drums. He said, ‘That’s what makes the record dope. That’s what makes it hip-hop. Are you crazy? Don’t change it.’ Of course, I was fighting the fight and he came to the studio physically prepared to fight all of our asses that day. My partner, Mark Morales ended up siding with him.

So, I walked out of the studio and told them don’t put my name on that bullshit. I’m thankful that they didn’t pay me any attention,” he laughs. “Mark Morales was a rapper who never wrote R&B lyrics. He was a member of the Fat Boys. Mark was sitting on the other side of the room with a pad of paper and a pen. He starts writing lyrics down and all of a sudden he approaches me saying that he wrote some lyrics down to the music I was working on. He said, ‘Don’t laugh.’ I told him I wasn’t going to laugh and he started singing the first four lines of ‘Real Love.’ It was almost like a rap and I told him it was hot. I put melodies behind it and a bridge. The bridge was borne out of the melodies. It came together really fast. The original recording of the song took place in my basement in Queens.”

The third single to be released from the album would be “Reminisce.” “Reminisce” went on to peak at

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