Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Renews Rights to Throne

Mary J. Blige and Sean “Puffy” Combs proved to be a killer duo in the early ’90s.

The two returned to the studio last year to see if they’d lost any of the magic that made her first two records Hip-Hop classics.

Hits like “Real Love,” “You Remind Me,” “My Life” and “Be Happy” proved Combs was right that Mary was the missing link to the music scene at the time, and she was quickly dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.

Blige and her mentor rekindled their relationship recently and headed back to the studio intending to recapture some of the magic they had on her first two CDs.

The result was “Love and Life,” a sound that Mary said she needed to recapture when she first hit the music scene in the early ’90s.

The sad love songs have been replaced with more up-tempo beats ala P. Diddy. The sampling done by Combs also returns, but to paraphrase the words of Paula Abdul, he made those songs his own.

Songs like “Feel Like Makin Love,” “Let Me Be The One” and “Love @ 1st Sight,” which peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard R&B charts, are filled with vibes of classic Mary and the catchy beats that have made P. Diddy famous.

Highlights include the song “Friend,” where Mary puts the shady characters in her life on full blast.

Uh-Oh, there goes that word again / How do we let it in / I thought you were my friend / I can’t believe my very eyes / But to my face you lied / Cause you’re my so-called friend,” she sings.

The only downfall of the CD is that she spends too much time screeching during several songs that would’ve been considered good without it.

Mary and Puff hit the studios less than a year ago to recapture the essence of their original partnership.

And the result was one of the best records to come out this summer.

Grade: A-