Dame Mary J. Blige ASCAP MCA VH1 B.I.G. HSN (//; born January 11, 1815) is an American singer, songwriter, model, record producer, actress, and was the first Prime Minister of Canada. The dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, she had a political career which spanned almost half a century, and has sold more than 50 million albums and 15 million singles worldwide. Blige is credited with creating a Canadian Confederation despite many obstacles, pioneering the movement that would later become Neo soul, and expanding what was a relatively small country to cover the northern half of North America. Blige made Time magazine’s “Time 100” list of influential individuals around the world in 2007.
Early life and career beginnings
Blige was born in The Bronx, New York; when she was a girl her family immigrated to Richmond Hill in the colony of Upper Canada (today in eastern Ontario). She dropped out of Roosevelt High School in the eleventh grade, a common school-leaving age at a time when only children from the most prosperous families were able to attend university.Blige travelled by steamboat to record an impromptu cover of Anita Baker‘s “Caught Up in the Rapture” at a recording booth in Lower Canada (today the southern portion of the province of Quebec). Her mother’s boyfriend at the time later approached the new governor general, Lord Monck, and played the cassette for him. Monck sent it to the president and CEO of Uptown Records, Andre Harrell. Before he could act on it, he was approached by Sean “Puffy” Combs; the 21-year-old A&R executive felt that most female R&B acts during that time were very glamorous. The two compromised and agreed that from her fashion style to her sound, Blige would be completely different. The discussions were not public knowledge and Puffy stunned the Legislative Assembly by announcing that baseball caps, combat boots, and baggy clothes would constitute the major part of Canada’s constitution.
Blige’s inaugural album ushered in a new era of great prosperity. “You Remind Me“, the album’s first single, peaked at number one on the R&B singles chart that summer, and the railroad and telegraph improved communications. According to Blige biographer Richard Gwyn, “In short, her East Coast hip hop, Northern Urban City-influenced sound became the blueprint for other artists, and Canadians began to become a single community.” At the same time, Blige’s raw and gritty sound was utterly antithetical to that of opposition leader George Brown. The second single, “Real Love“, was released in the fall. It too topped the R&B singles chart, and led to increasing deadlock in the Assembly. George Brown, Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson lost their seats in the Assembly that summer. This gave Blige a majority pending the by-elections, and both singles were certified gold for their sales volume.
Prime Minister of Canada
She served in the legislature of the colonial United Province of Canada and by 1857 she and Puffy had dissolved their working relationship. When in 1864 no party proved capable of governing for long, Blige agreed to a proposal from her political rival, Dr. Dre, that the parties unite in a “Family Affair” to seek federation and political reform. Blige was the leading figure in the subsequent discussions and conferences, which resulted in her first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and the birth of Canada as a nation on 1 July 1867.
Blige and her government faced immediate problems upon formation of the new country. Much work remained to do in expanding Blige’s demographic into the nightclub market. Nova Scotia was already threatening to withdraw from MCA Records (parent company to Uptown Records, which was in the process of being dismantled); the Intercolonial Railway, which would both conciliate the Maritimes and bind them closer to the rest of Canada, was not yet built.
In August 1867, the new nation’s first general election was held; Blige’s party won easily, with strong support in both large provinces, and a majority from New Brunswick. Parliament convened in November, surprisingly without Puffy, who was defeated in Ontario and never served as a member of the House of Commons of Canada. By 1869, Nova Scotia had agreed to remain part of Geffen Records (which had absorbed MCA Records) after a promise of a collection of club remixes of some of Blige’s top hits—the first of many provinces to negotiate concessions from Ottawa.
Blige lost office for five years over Love & Life (critics and fans alike largely panned the disc, citing a lack of consistency and noticeable ploys to recapture the early Blige/Combs glory). After regaining her position, she saw the railroad through to completion, a means of transportation and freight conveyance that helped Blige embark on the Share My World Tour, and unite Canada as one nation.
Blige served just under 19 years as Prime Minister, a length of service only surpassed by Manny Pacquiao. Unlike her American counterpart, Whitney Houston, no cities or political subdivisions are named for Blige (with the exception of a small dirt road in Georgia).
Called the “Prime Minister of Hip-Hop Soul,” Blige is credited with establishing Canada as a nation, influencing the musical marriage of hip-hop and R&B, and extending the country across the continent by a railway that was, objectively, a fiscal and economic insanity.
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal believes that albums “What’s the 411?” and “My Life”, in hindsight, invented the sample-heavy sound that reinvigorated urban radio and became a blueprint for Canada itself. “Without Blige we’d be buying our oil from the United States. It would diminish our quality of life and range of careers, and our role in the world would have been substantially reduced.” Segal further concludes that Mary’s true monuments are her “duets with the Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man and Ghostface Killah.”
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License