Mary J. Blige Is As Real As She’s Ever Been In Discussing Her Divorce (Video)
Celebrated world over for her deeply personal approach to music, Mary J. Blige has never held back from admitting her weaknesses and pain. In fact, she has time and time again channeled it all into her work, which continues to resonate with her fans 25 years after she made her debut with What’s the 411? On April 28, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul will drop Strength of a Woman, her first album in three years and the first since her divorce, which she filed for in July of 2016.
As she’s always done, Mary J. has poured her heart into the forthcoming album, sharing the painful realities of divorce and not shying away from mourning a relationship which ended in such an ugly fashion. In the past, Ms. Blige has accused her ex-husband (and former manager), Martin “Kendu” Isaacs of extreme greed, going as far as to say that he was spending her money on other women. In a recent interview with Funkmaster Flex, the Grammy-winning singer opened up about the divorce and how it influenced the recording process for her new LP, and she also offered women some frank advice about dealing with the fallout of a marriage.
After explaining to Flex that she wrote the LP as if “I was writing to myself,” Mary admits that she felt life had stopped entirely for her. “My life was on hold due to my situation and how terrible it was,” she explains (4:15). “I was living a life that was deceiving. I thought that I was with someone that I knew, and I wasn’t.” At the 6:00 mark, she begins to go into more depth, explaining to Flex that she felt as though her partner had completely changed. “He became someone that I didn’t know, due to greed, lust, power. I gave him way too much. I gave him so much power. I gave him everything, because I loved him, and I wanted him to feel comfortable. I didn’t want him to just feel like Mary J. Blige’s husband.”
In her words, her name was rolling off her then-husband’s tongue every day, which allowed him to get anything he wanted. Naturally, this caused some “hiccups” from a managerial perspective, and it began to affect their romantic relationship, as well. “He began to think that he was more powerful than, you know, the whole relationship,” she says (7:10). “I’m the kind of person that loves hard and sincere, and when I give you…when I say ‘Baby, go,’ that means that we’re supposed to go together. That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to find someone else to dethrone me.” Adding that she was made to feel like she wasn’t pretty, skinny, or smart enough, Mary says she became frustrated that her partner had instead become her critic. “I just couldn’t believe that somebody would try to take Mary J. Blige down.”
Several minutes later, approaching the 11:00 mark, Mary says that, when it came down to the financial demands during the divorce proceedings, her now ex-husband began asking for an amount that led her to ask “who are you?” She began to wonder how someone she had thought she’d known so well could have “come at me like this.” “You know me. You know us, well at least I thought you did. I thought you loved me. I though you respect me enough. But now, you’re just a guy that was using me for opportunity, for bank, and just a chick to say ‘well, I got Mary J. Blige,’ while you’re taking care of a whole other situation,” she says, alluding to alleged infidelity.
At the 12:53 mark, Flex asks Mary if she’s spoken with her now ex-husband, and if she’s open to opening lines of communication with him. She says that, while she has had a brief conversation with him, any future communication likely “won’t work, because I don’t care. I don’t wanna hear it. I’ve protected. I’ve covered. I smiled when I felt like crying. I laughed when I felt like dying. I walked down the street when I felt like stabbing somebody, arm in arm. The humiliation, to me, was too much. He killed everything that we ever had, by giving somebody else everything that I gave him. So I don’t really wanna hear no more. I don’t wanna hear no apologies, I don’t care. I mean, I don’t hate you, but I really just don’t have nothing for you.”
It’s then that the conversation begins to shift to the music, and Mary clarifies that Williams has nothing to do with Strength of a Woman, at least, from a business perspective. She says that she began writing the album around a year ago, and says “I was writing this album from a perspective of a woman fighting for her marriage” (15:12). “I was fighting for my marriage. I loved my husband. I was willing to go through hell, I went through hell. I went through some of the darkest, most disgusting…I lost my morals, I lost my mind. I lost who I was, everything for this man.” Naturally, when divorce became more of a reality, there was a shift in the album’s perspective. “Now, I’m singing from the perspective of a woman who has to survive this, but I’m scorned…I can’t be out here letting you think that you got the best of me. You have not gotten the best of me. You have just made the best come out of me.”
Towards the end of the interview, at the 46:00 mark, Mary serves up some of the same realness and directs it towards other women – much like she does in her music. “I gotta let people know, there’s a lighter side to life. Although there’s darkness, life is what you make it.” When asked what advice she has for women who are currently going through tremendous upheaval in their marriages (47:26), Mary lays down the 411. “Don’t give up on yourself. The manipulation game that he’s probably running is to make you feel like you’re nothing, and you weren’t anything before he came into your life. But you were. So don’t give up on yourself. Love yourself through it. Find something about you, the good, the bad, the ugly, whatever it is about it, it’s you. Just hold it all together and just rock with it until you can fix the ugly. But, until then, this is what you have, and don’t let anybody tell you that you’re terrible because you’re different…just believe the best in you.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Mary discusses working with Kanye West, getting “discovered,” her feelings about Puff Daddy after working alongside him and his leaving to found Bad Boy, why Faith Evans was a carbon copy of her (and, as she says, a ton of other female singers in the industry), and more.