Well-made, extremely personal and exceptionally heartfelt.
Daryl Easlea 2011-08-25
Spawning her first US number one single, Family Affair, for many fans No More Drama will always be their favourite Mary J. Blige album. Originally conceived as the second part of a trilogy following1999’s Mary, it reveals an artist in complete control. Singing every note (aside from collaborations with Eve, Pharrell, Common, Diddy and Ja Rule) and writing every word, while Blige has the obligatory cast-of-thousands so prevalent of RnB albums at the turn of the century, it feels like no-one else’s work but her own.
Rarely does an artist sound so completely at one with her material. This was a woman who had grown up in public, relaunching herself in the era of the Missy and the Destiny’s Child. Blige was going to prove that she was not a relic from a different era. Collaborating with a cross section of the greatest production names of the day – Dr. Dre, The Neptunes, Irv Gotti, Swizz Beatz, Missy Elliott, Rich Harrison – Blige delivered a contemporary work, full of warm and infectious tunes.
The title-track, which appears in two versions on the 2002 reissue, is like a mini-opera. The original (produced by Jam and Lewis) has a marvellous, late night feel; Diddy’s Bad Boy remix, meanwhile, identifies the record’s debt to Chic by adding a generous sample from their lesser-known track You Can’t Do It Alone. The Dre-produced Family Affair gave Blige the hit that placed her further into the mainstream, while Dance For Me, based on a sample of The Police’s The Bed’s Too Big Without You, with its dancehall stylings and contagious chorus, is a fabulous confection. The squelchy, synth-driven groove of Where I’ve Been showcases the then 23-year-old Swizz Beatz’s ornate and strange production on one of his first major gigs.
No More Drama is arguably Mary J. Blige’s greatest album. It stands as something of a landmark in modern RnB, signposting the future by championing young producers such as Harrison and Beatz, while paying tribute to the genre’s illustrious past. But what makes it so special is that, beyond how well-made it may be, No More Drama is extremely personal and exceptionally heartfelt.