In 1997, Mary J. Blige was on top of the world professionally. Her sophomore album, 1994’s My Life was a smash. Mary was at the forefront of the hip hop-soul revolution in music, garnering her the undisputed title “Queen of Hip Hop Soul”. She changed course with 1997’s Share My World, drifting musically towards contemporary R&B. The results still hold up today as amazing. Andrew & Mario highlight some of the album’s top tracks. Allow us to take you back…
Puff, Puff, Pass
After two successful albums helmed by Puff Daddy, Mary and Puff drifted apart. Puff left Mary’s label Uptown Records to start his Bad Boy Records. Soon after Puff signed Faith Evans, who he modeled visually and sonically after Mary. She enlisted the help of Trackmasters, who co-produced her hit “Be Happy” from My Life. Clearly they knew the direction to help further develop Mary’s sound. So did both Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, who make their first appearances on a Mary album here. Jam & Lewis and Darkchild would go on to help produce some of Mary’s biggest hits including “No More Drama” and “Enough Cryin'”.
While 1994’s My Life explored some of the darkest parts of Mary’s soul, Share My World takes a slightly different approach. There are still those dark, soulful, heartbroken moments. However, Mary seems more hopeful, especially on tracks like “Everything”, “Our Love”, and “Love Is All We Need”. Overall, clocking in at 17 tracks, Mary’s Share My World is a masterful progression in Mary’s catalog.
I Can Love You
One of the album’s standout tracks is the opener, “I Can Love You”. Over a sample of Lil’ Kim’s “Queen Bitch” Mary declares that she can love her man better than the woman. With added production by Trackmasters to transform the sample into an R&B track, Mary shines. The song climaxes when Lil’ Kim herself makes an appearance.
The Queen Bee proclaims “If I told you once, I told you twice, QB, throw the booty, like a groupie for mo’ ice”. Kim builds on the premise of the song, listing all the ways she’s down for her man (she happens to be talking about The Notorious BIG). “Under pressure? I ride for ya, die for ya, ruger by the thigh for ya, right hand high for ya”. Kim asserts that she’s ride or die, just like on her debut album Hard Core. The song is a classic amongst Mary’s catalog, and a notable moment in Mary & Kim’s friendship. We were in the building when two finally performed the song together for the very first time in 2015:
Round And Round
The Trackmasters also produced this piano-based thumping hip hop soul heartbreak song. Like “I Can Love You”, “Round And Round” also masterfully samples a recent rap song, Jay-Z’s 1996 “D’Evils”. Mary laments her mood swings that are the result of a man who’s untrue. It’s one of her catchiest songs and it still feels fresh as if it came out yesterday.
“Everything” is a soulful and romantic mid-tempo. A Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis production, it is based on obvious samples of “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics and James Brown’s “The Payback.” It was the second top 5 R&B hit from the album (not to mention it’s also arguably one of her signature hits to R&B fans). The music video, shot by Hype Williams, is perhaps one of Mary’s most recognizable visuals to date. The So So Def remix by Jermaine Dupri featured new vocals from Mary and turned the song into a hip hop soul jam.
One of the album’s premiere ballads. Heightened by the guitar talents of George Benson, Mary is stuck in a dilemma. She has a man who’s friendship inadvertently escalated to a physical relationship. She recounts each day in the week as the relationship escalated. The chorus begins on Monday when he was a friend, and things seem normal until the turning point of Thursday when “things weren’t the same”. The chorus ends concludes with Sunday, when the relationship gets physical. Now what is she going to do?
Love Is All We Need
The lead single off the album was assisted by Nas. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis used a beat based off a sample of Rick James’ “Moonlight.” With its more joyful theme and melodic structure, this song was a stark contrast with Mary’s earlier work, especially her 1994 sophomore album. The universal lyrics and Mary’s soulful and raw vocal approach made the song a surefire hit, despite it never getting a commercial release from the label. A remix with Foxy Brown, sampling Diana Ross’ “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” and bearing the unmistakable Trackmaster fingerprints, also made the rounds at radio.
Share My World
Of course the album’s title cut is another standout cut. Over smooth Rodney Jerkins production, Mary sings “share my world, don’t you leave.” Though it sounds like a love song, she’s actually pleading with her man to stay and remain a part of her world. She even promoted the song on The Jamie Foxx Show, and sang the song with Jamie. Mary shared her world and said not to leave, and here we are awaiting the 11th album since Share My World.
Stream Mary J. Blige’s Share My World: