Mary J. Blige Had To 'Sing For My Life' After Battle With Depression Led To Drug And Alcohol Abuse

The iconic singer opens up about her rise to fame and the struggles that came with it in this exclusive clip. 

Sydney Scott Jul, 26, 2017

Mary J. Blige is the kind of singer whose songs strike a cord with listeners. No matter where you are in life, there’s a song by the R&B singer that you can relate to.

In an interview with MAKERS, Blige shares the story behind her rise to fame and its pitfalls. The singer opens up in this exclusive clip about battling depression and finding her way out through music and with help from fans.

Blige, who grew up in the Bronx, reveals that she realized her talent at an early age, using it to escape the projects. “I definitely used singing as an escape from the environment we were living in,” she says. “I felt like I had wings, like I could fly and get away from any situation, like I was alive.”

Things slightly stalled for the singer after she was discovered, but when P. Diddy entered the picture her career skyrocketed. However, the road to fame was bumpy. 

“When my first record took off we were living in the projects,” she says. “People want to buy your records, they want to see you. But, people in the neighborhood wanted to kill you for it. So you plucked this girl from the hood and throw her in all of this stuff and so, she’s going to survive the only way she knows how. I was resorting to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.” 

She adds, “People from the outside looking in would think I was great, but I was in hell.” 

Blige’s struggle eventually came to a head and the singer realized that there was only one thing she could do. “I was like, ‘Whoa! You have to sing for your life.'”

Blige’s sophomore album My Life became her plea and her escape.”I didn’t think anybody would pay attention to my call for help, but my fanbase did.”

After the albums release and success, Blige realized that music was what she needed and that through it she could be a source of strength for others. 

“I realized that I can’t do this anymore. I can save lives,” she says. “I had to figure out a way to uplift us and be a woman of empowerment and strength.”

“I took all this depression and opression I was dealing with and just put it in my music. I made the choice, I chose life.” 

Hide Transcript
To my 15 year old self, I would say, believe in who you are. You are going to move people, don't be afraid of the power that you have. Just go out there and let people see you. [MUSIC] I was born in the Bronx. My dad was a funk band musician. And my mom was the soul queen. She got a scholarship for singing but she got pregnant with my sister, so her dream died. My family didn't really encourage singing for me because singing was an escape for them. The children feel it the worst, especially living in the projects. We kind of just had to like block everything out in order to survive. I knew that I could sing because my school teachers would ask me to be in talent shows and I would blow everybody away. I definitely used singing as an escape from the environment that we were living in. I felt like I had wings. Like I could fly and get away from any situation. Like I was alive. [MUSIC] They drove to my house when they heard the tape, and wanted to hear me sing in person. I blew them away, obviously. But it wasn't an overnight success, because Uptown Records didn't know what to do with someone like me. This girl from the hood, what are we gonna do with her? So I was kinda shelved for a little while until Puffy came into my life and he was from Harlem. What Puffy saw in me was what was in my eyes, what was in my heart, what was in my walk, what was in my talk, was pain, it was struggle, but it was also a little twinkle of belief that something was gonna happen. [MUSIC] When my first record took off, we were still living in the projects. People are buying your records, they wanna see you. People in the neighborhood wanted to kill you for it. And so you pluck this girl from the hood [LAUGH] and throw in all of this stuff. And so she's gonna survive the only way she knows how. I was resorting to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. People from the outside looking in would think that everything was great, but I was in a hell, I was spiraling down, I didn't think I was gonna make it. It was like whoa, okay, now what? Sing for your life, literally, sing for your life. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] I didn't think anybody would pay attention to my call for help. But my fan base did, they all came out, and they bought my records. [MUSIC] When I was finally trying to wake up, I realized that, I can't do this anymore. I can't sell death and oppression. I can save lives. I have to figure out a way to uplift us and be a woman of empowerment and strength. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] So, I took all this depression and all this oppression that I was dealing with and just put it in my music. I made the choice. I chose life. [MUSIC] I hope that my audience Inspired by the words of my songs and I hope that they can see my strength. See my courage. See that I'm never gonna give up. I still have problems just like you, I still cry. I'm not playing a game out here, it's real. It makes me feel like I'm doing my job, whatever I've been sent to this earth to do. So now that I have it and I love it I'm never gonna let it go. [MUSIC]