Mary J. Blige Drops Her Debut Album: July 28 in Hip-Hop History
This day in hip-hop history includes the release of Mary J. Blige's debut record, EPMD's classic Business Never Personal and LL Cool J's standoff with a shark.
1992: Mary J. Blige Drops What's the 411?
On this day in 1992, Uptown Records and MCA Records released Mary J. Blige's debut album What's the 411?. A then-unusual mix of hip-hop, R&B and new jack swing, a variety of artists touched the project, with Puff Daddy helming as producer and consulting DeVante Swing, Tony Dofat, Dave Hall, Mark Morales and Mark "Cory" Rooney as well. The record peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and was certified triple platinum, selling 3.4 million copies.
"I wasn't conscious that I was doing something different in that moment," Blige told NPR last year of the record. "I just knew that I loved hip-hop and R&B, and I was doing what I loved. And I didn't realize what we had done 'til later, like 'Wow, we created a whole genre of music.'"
1992: EPMD Release Business Never Personal
On the same day, hip-hop duo EPMD released their fourth record Business Never Personal. It followed 1990's Business As Usual, which received mixed reviews, and reignited the fire of their first two releases. It's lead single, "Crossover," gave Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith their biggest hit, nearly breaking the Billboard Hot 100's Top 20. The remaining 10 tracks, however, were less radio-friendly.
“Funk music just goes,” Sermon said of his inspiration in 2012. “It’s sloppy. We used to stack like four, five samples on top of each other, and the shit would sound good. That’s bugged out — it’s crazy, right? I don’t understand that shit either.”
But it was also their last record until 1997's Back in Business. After money ran tight in the studio, Sermon allegedly paid someone to rob Smith's home, an incident that led to the first of many break-ups.
1997: Foxy Brown Releases "Big Bad Mama" Featuring Dru Hill
From the soundtrack of the film How To Be a Player, rapper Foxy Brown released the track "Big Bad Mama," a collaboration with R&B group Dru Hill on this day in 1997. It also appeared on the reissue of Brown's debut album Ill Na Na, released a few months earlier. The song is based on Carl Carlton's 1981 release, "She's a Bad Mama Jama."
1998: Forever With You by Phyllis Hyman is Released
Volcano Records released Phyllis Hyman's 10th and final record on July 28, 1998 — three years after her death by suicide. Twelve songs recorded between 1985-1995 during her tenure with the Philadelphia International label comprise the tracklist, with the album reaching No. 66 on the Billboard Top R&B chart.
1999: Deep Blue Sea is Released in Theaters
The science fiction horror film starring LL Cool J, Deep Blue Sea, was released on this day the following year, grossing more than $164 million worldwide. Taking on the role of Preacher Dudley — a role initially offered to Samuel L. Jackson — LL manages to slay a genetically engineered shark that escaped an experiment on reactivating the dormant brain cells of Alzheimer's patients.
“LL was pretty great," said director Renny Harlin. "He had some very uncomfortable situations because he really has to come face to face with the sharks a lot and even ends up in the shark’s mouth at the end of the film, but he was always game, he was really determined to show that he was not a rap artist who wanted to do little movies but he’s a real actor who wants to do something really powerful and interesting.”
He also contributed two songs to the film: "Deepest Bluest (Shark's Fin)" and "Say What," which were both used in the credits.
2000: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps Hits Theaters
Though she hadn't taken on any film work since her big screen debut, 1993's Poetic Justice, actress and musician Janet Jackson appeared in the science-fiction romantic comedy, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, that was released on July 28, 2000. She replaced Jada Pinkett (from the first Nutty Professor film) as Carla Purty, the object of the professor's affections.
Jackson also turned an incomplete poem about loving someone regardless of appearance into the song that led the 16-track soundtrack: "Doesn't Really Matter"; it became her ninth No. 1 one single. A slightly different version of the song appeared on her own 2001 record All For You and earned Jimmy Jam and Terry Tam a Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.
"I never stopped receiving scripts after Poetic Justice," Jackson told the BBC in 2000. "A great deal of the scripts were either similar to the film or, like "Justice," the character and I wanted to do something different. So when this came along I jumped at the chance. I never stopped looking."
July 28, 2003: LSG Drop LSG2
The aptly named LSG2 was the second and final album by the R&B supergroup LSG was released by Elektra Records on this day in 2003. It arrived seven years after their debut record, Levert.Sweat.Gill, named after the trio of Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill, which was certified platinum. The supergroup formed easily enough, but each member was too involved his own projects to keep it going.
"Keith and I were on the phone and he told me how much he'd wanted to form this group, something that had never been done before — get some of the greatest singers and record a few albums — so that would be me, Keith and two other people," Levert said of the band's formation ahead of LSG2's release. "I loved the idea, so I said 'Cool. Who do you have in mind?' He said, 'I don't know, man. Think of names.'
I called Johnny, and he was sold. Then I called R. Kelly, and he also thought it was a great idea. So we got on the phone and started talking. Robert just got on a roll and said: Guys, this is what I wanna do, you guys are gonna come to my studio and we're gonna do these songs that I wrote, and this is what I want you guys to do. So we were like, 'What?! We also write our own songs.' So we reached some sort of conclusion, and we ended the call. We never called Robert again. I mean, he's an amazing artist, and I'm not taking any credit from him. It's just that we didn't think he shared our vision at that time."
July 28, 2007: Rock the Bells Pulls Up in NYC For The First Time Ever, Featuring Wu-Tang, Cypress Hill, the Roots, Nas, EPMD and More
The star-studded hip-hop tour held its first NYC edition on Randall's Island on this day in 2007. Mostly known for being a West Coast festival until the third year, the NYC line up featured the who's who of hip-hop including Nas, Public Enemy, Mos Def and more. 2007 was also the first year a non-hip-hop act headlined the tour, with Rage Against the Machine hitting the main stage.
2009: Fabolous Drops Loso's Way
The fifth studio album by rapper Fabolous, a standard and deluxe edition of Loso's Way were both released by Desert Storm Records and Def Jam Recordings on this day in 2009. Likewise, the recording's first two singles, "Throw It In the Bag" and "My Time" were released simultaneously and featured The-Dream and Jeremih, respectively. The album's songs were far more personal than his previous work.
In 2009, he said of it, "I talked about becoming a father for the first time and actually my relationship with my father and that feeling even knowing now that feeling of being a father and how our relationship was different.
"I also talk about the changing of friendships and relationships. When you come into the game and some of the friends you had when you first came in the game are not here now. Talk about that and talk about how that's a part of the game as well."
July 28, 1990: Soulja Boy is Born
DeAndre Cortez Way, better known as Soulja Boy, was born on July 28, 1990 in Chicago. In 2007, the then-teenager, an unsigned, budding rapper debuted with the self-published single "Crank That (Soulja Boy)," a track that hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100. He was soon signed to Interscope Records and has gone on to release eight records.
"I can set my foot down—right now, I’m really hot," he said in 2007 of his career longevity. "So right now when I’m hot I’m gonna take advantage of everything that I can do possible that can help me out, so later in my career, I may not have a single that’s as hot as, 'Crank That Soulja Boy,' but what I have right now, I’m going to use to set my boundaries. Later on, when I don’t have a single that’s so hot, I still have the relationships that are helpin’ me on my single that I have out in the future."