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?

#57 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #6 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and #31 on the UK Singles Chart.

Hall talks about the process of writing the song with Kenny Greene.

“When I wrote ‘Reminisce,’ I wrote the music when I was I trying to make a real dark, moody song with a lot of keyboard textures in it,” says Hall. “So if you listen to the song, you can hear a lot of keyboard instruments that are eerie and dreamy sounding. But I still wanted the song to have a hard beat to it so I dug into my crates and I found a nice loop that I wanted to use that still had the hard beat that would keep everybody happy. It wouldn’t be just a spacey, moody record. When I played the track for Kenny Greene at my house, he thought it was hot and he immediately started writing to the track. We would always get the hook first and then we took that concept and wrote the song ‘Reminisce.’

The fourth single to be released from the album would be the classic remake of Chaka Khan’s 1975 song “Sweet Thing.” “Sweet Thing” went on to peak at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #11 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart.

Rooney recollects how the song came to fruition from an idea he shared with Andre Harrell and Diddy.

“Songs like ‘Sweet Thing’ ended up on the record because she was going to do a convention called; Impact,” says Rooney. “Andre Harrell and Puffy hit me on the two way asking, ‘What would be a classic R&B song for a Black woman to sing? Like a Black anthem.’ So I suggested ‘Sweet Thing’ by Chaka Khan. Andre said, ‘That’s dope.’ He asked me if we could do a track that night for her to sing on because Impact was the next day and she was driving up to Jersey to perform there. We went to the Hit Factory in the city and we did just the track for ‘Sweet Thing.’ Mary came to the studio because she wanted to put background parts on it so when she would perform it, it would sound like a TV track.

We were still in the studio at 8 o’clock the next morning putting the finishing touches on it. She was literally about to jump in the car in the next couple of hours to drive up to Atlantic City. She asked me at the eleventh hour if she could put a scratch vocal over the track. I told her yes only because I wanted to listen to it in my car and it was one of my favorite songs. She went in the studio and knocked it out. The Impact show ended up going so well that Andre called us back and said that we should record the song. Mary played him the one take of what she recorded and he loved it. He told us to mix that version right there. This is how the song ended up on the album. It was the last song that was mixed and added to the album.”

The final song to be released from the album would be “Love No Limit," which went on to peak at #44 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and #5 on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart.

Hall tells his own story on how he pieced the track together

“Love No Limit” was the last record we wrote for the album. I had a deadline to meet and Diddy was pressuring me to get it done,” he laughs. “He kept calling my house and I told him I had this song called; ‘Love No Limit’ that I wrote with Kenny Greene. He said, ‘Cool. Let me hear it.’ So I played it for him and he said, ‘I like it.’ But I don’t think he was 100% sold on it. We moved forward with it even though it was much different from the rest of the material on the album. It was really jazzy.

I was big into old school jazz like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Kenny Greene was church trained so we did the song with a jazzy feel, but it still had a strong beat to it. He wrote a catchy hook to it and Mary loved it. She definitely loved that type of jazz music. This whole album defined her sound per se. We cut the record and I thought it turned out great, but we were still skeptical on how it would be received because it was so different than any of the other stuff on her album. I was amazed when it came out because there would be guys on the corner in the hood blasting the song.”

What’s the 411? peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200

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