Queen of hip-hop soul: Mary J. Blige hits Reno

Tahoe Onstage
Strength of a Woman: Mary J. Blige plays Grand Sierra Resort on Friday.

Mary J. Blige is no stranger to breaking new territory, having entered the mainstream music industry in the era of early ’90s hip-hop with her debut record being produced by Sean P. Diddy Combs.

Within a couple albums, Blige, a native of the Bronx, New York, traded in her hip-hop flow and evolved into more a of a soul sound, harking back to her singing in a Pentecostal church while growing up in Georgia. Blige soon began to duet with rappers such as members of Wu Tang Clan and Jay Z and working with producers such as Dr. Dre, paving the way the combination of soul vocals complementing rap performances that you can hear all over today’s radio.

Along the way, Mary J. Blige has been nominated for 32 Grammy Awards and won nine, has seen Billboard chart placement regularly throughout each of the past three decades, and has sold more than 50 million albums under the popularity of songs such as “Real Love,” “Be Without You” and “Family Affair.” For those who might be bad with numbers, this is a solid two generations of us to whom Blige’s songs featured prominently on our mix tapes made to set the mood, and more than likely were the background soundtrack to weekend night drives and sunny afternoons with the hip-hop radio station playing in the background. And she’s showing no sign of slowing up.

On Friday, Sept. 8, Blige will bring her 29-date national Strength Of A Woman Tour to Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort, in support of her 13th studio album of the same name. As a songwriter, Blige’s lyrics maneuver across the spectrum traipsing from personal pain to euphoria, though her position as the queen of hip-hop soul is beyond question, and her work has laid the groundwork for the current wave of soul music sung over musically-sampled production and with a street smart lyrical foundation.

Opening for Blige will be soul vocalist Lalah Hathaway, a five-time Grammy Award winner with a singing career also going back to the early 1990s. In slight contrast to Blige’s more contemporary style of soul, Hathaway approaches her stylings in a more traditional-leaning manner, making the Grand Sierra Resort show a diverse night of soul music touching on the spiritual and the dance-friendly musical output of the two unique performers.

  • Mary J. Blige
    Opener: Lalah Hathaway
    When: 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8
    Where: Grand Sierra Resort, Reno
    Tickets: $68

ABOUT Shaun Astor

Shaun Astor
Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com

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