‘Family Affair’: The Story Behind Mary J. Blige’s Hit

The Dr. Dre-produced lead single from her fifth album, ‘Family Affair’ took Mary J. Blige from Queen of Hip-Hop Soul to Queen of the Charts.

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Mary J. Blige rehearsing for the BET Awards, the same year that Family Affair was released
Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage

Mary J. Blige is regarded as one of R&B’s integral artists, someone that elevated the genre’s mainstream appeal. Since her 1992 debut What’s the 411?, the singer has become known for marrying rugged hip-hop beats with gospel-rooted R&B vocals, earning her the nickname the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.”

Blige is an open book, using her albums as confessionals to target trauma, grief, and toxic relationships. These are best heard on R&B classics like 1994’s My Life and 1997’s Share My World. Once the new millennium arrived, the singer found clarity and began to heal with her fifth album, 2001’s No More Drama.

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Listen to Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” now.

The album was Blige’s sonic version of breaking an emotional cycle, with singles like “No More Drama,” “Rainy Dayz” featuring Ja Rule, “Dance for Me” with Common, and the lead single “Family Affair.” Produced by Dr. Dre, “Family” was crafted for the clubs. The combination of Dre’s signature G-Funk beats and Blige’s warm vocals made for a feel-good smash. “Don’t need no hateration/Holleration in this dancery,” she sings on the chorus.

The energized spirit surrounding “Family Affair” was felt on the charts. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks and entered the Top 10 on various international charts, making it Blige’s career-first and only No.1 hit. The song was also her first Top 10 since 1996’s “Not Gon’ Cry.” Blige also scored two Grammy nominations: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Family Affair” and Best R&B Album for No More Drama.

“I don’t think I realized I was successful in music until [‘Family Affair’]. I was on tour and the bus driver was a white boy who was listening to his country music radio station,” Blige recalled during a June 2021 interview with BackstageOL. “I’m sitting at the front of the bus and ‘Family Affair’ came on. I got really nervous and said, ‘Something different happened, why is my song on the country station?’ ‘That’s when I realized that I was huge, because country is a big deal. The bus driver said, ‘This is the best thing in the world. This is our song!’”

Blige continues to reign as one of R&B’s most successful artists, with nine Grammy awards under her belt. She’s ventured into acting as well, starring in film and TV series like 2009’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself, 2013’s Betty & Coretta, 2016’s How To Get Away With Murder, and 2021’s Respect. She most notably received two Golden Globes and Oscar nominations each – Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for “Mighty River” – for her role in 2017’s Mudbound.

Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” appeared on 2002’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 9, alongside other R&B classics like Ginuwine’s “Differences” and Ja Rule’s “Livin’ It Up.” Looking for more stories behind music’s biggest hits? Check out the Now! That’s What I Call Music page.

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