We gave it an A
Mary J. Blige is the first diva to deliver frisky, fly-girl funk. Like male performers Guy and Jodeci, she bends her gospel-bred pipes around streetwise collages consisting of hard drumbeats, rugged rap samples, and hazy synthesizer lines. Blige’s powerful voice, recalling Caron Wheeler, Anita Baker, and Chaka Khan, at different times, conquers everything she tackles — from ”Sweet Thing,” a jazzy remake of the ’70s Rufus classic, to ballads both hard-line and soft. With its cascading, intricately layered mid-tempo beat, ”You Remind Me” has already snaked to the top of the R&B charts. What’s the 411?, a déjà vu jam is one of the most accomplished fusions of soul values and hip-hop to date. Blige is a new-jill comer with her eyes on the prize.