With more than two decades in the business, and over 50 million records sold, Mary J. Blige has more than earned her crown as the queen of hip-hop soul. Adding another item to her list of accolades, Blige was honored by Vibe magazine at their 20th anniversary Inaugural Impact Awards held at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. Saturday (Feb. 9) night.
In a sea of events held ahead of Sunday’s Grammy Awards, the acknowledgement of her career success, and a record-setting 10 Vibe covers — the most of anyone in the history of the publication — was a double celebration, given the company’s anniversary milestone. “Vibe is on the pulse of youth culture,” Vibe Media CEO Ari Horowitz told Billboard.biz. “It’s an incredible brand, we know that there’s nothing else like it. We’re able to be really broad, so we’ve been able to cover the rising side of the movement,” he continued, referencing Blige’s role as a progenitor of neo soul.
“Mary was the artist that bridged that generation to this generation, and the generation ahead,” said Andre Harrell. In 1989, Harrell singed Blige to his Uptown Records imprint after being turned on to her talents by one of his employees. “In terms of being a real person she redefined that and brought glamour to it. When they thought it was just going to be one thing, it was everything. It was dressed up, it was dressed down, it was fashion. It was all of that. Her music is useful, her sprit is honest, it never changed. You can follow the story from unloved to finding love, finding love to being married, being married to marriage is not easy, to still in love. It’s an on-going story. She tells it with such and honesty and bravado that she makes life in general seem alive.”
Far from coming off coy, Blige was described by Sean “Diddy” Combs as holding back at the very start of their collaborations, before finding her footing. “Me and her grew up together, like so many true partnerships,” Diddy said. “I would say these partnerships work the best when two people are in the same situation or in the same boat. We were in the same boat because we were two people that nobody believed in, at that time.”
Now, over 20 years later, the 42-year-old is still as humble as a new artist, but she’s also reached a place of self-acceptance. “I don’t want to be perfect,” Blige told the audience upon accepting her award. “I’m cool with being imperfect, you can let someone else be perfect.”