Now that she has her 15th studio album, Good Morning Gorgeous, under her diamond-encrusted belt, the Queen of Hip Hop Soul is stepping into her own in a bold and enlightened way. There’s something about a Black woman who knows exactly who she is and what she’s about and on the eve of Super Bowl LVI, it is a moment of pure sunshine for Mary J. Blige.
The stage is set for Mary to raise expectations for halftime performances to come. As the only woman performing alongside fellow hip hop icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar, the “Here With Me” singer will be turning the big game into headline-grabbing, internet-breaking moment that will be one to talk about for years to come.
Ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Los Angeles Rams on their home court at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, BET.com spoke with the nine-time Grammy Award winner about her newly anticipated project, which dropped Feb. 11. Here, you’ll find a breathtakingly refreshing Mary, one who has successfully walked through her pain, who now recognizes her worth, and who is finally having a damn good time.
BET.com: In addition to the album’s opening track, “Good Morning Gorgeous,” what are some other affirmations that get you through your day?
Mary J. Blige: I’ll say other things like, ‘Good morning blessed woman, intelligent woman, patient woman,’ because I need patience. Good morning time or sexy, or however I want to feel – beautiful, intelligent, wise, or talented.
BET.com: You collaborated on the song with D’Mile, Tiara Thomas, Lucky Daye, and H.E.R. How did you all come up with the song’s concept?
Mary J. Blige: The concept came from just living in a place that was really dark and finding myself in a place that I was coming out of…I didn't have self-love, and I found out that someone hated me more than I hated me. I had to make a decision to love myself more than the world loved me. The only way to do that was not to look at the vanity of it, but to wake up in the morning and speak something positive over my life. I had to speak how I wanted to feel and I wanted to feel gorgeous, from the inside out.
I didn't even believe that I was gorgeous, I thought I was a regular looking chick. I had to say something even more powerful in order to come out of just being regular and come out of just feeling mediocre. I had been beaten down mentally and told that I wasn't anything and I could never get anything right and that I wasn't beautiful. I had to say something higher to myself so it could manifest it. I wasn't going to the mirror with hair and makeup and all that stuff. I was going to the mirror in the morning and saying when you look like a mess, you have to speak to the person inside. By the time I got to the studio, this had already been something that had become normal in my life.
And when I got to the studio with H.E.R. and Lucky Daye, the question was, what do we want the song to be about? And D'Mile's had this monster track ready, playing it over and over again. I just didn't want to give up what had helped to heal me. I was hesitant but then I said, ‘Good morning, gorgeous!’ and the entire studio just erupted saying, ‘Ah, that's amazing. We love that!’
Then it turned into a whole therapy session. Everybody started talking about how they needed to heal and how just me saying it could start healing other people. It was an amazing session.
BET.com: Good Morning Gorgeous is wildly diverse. What was it like working with Anderson .Paak, DJ Khaled, Dave East, and Fivio Foreign for the first time? Were there any memorable moments made while crafting these songs that show up in the final version of the album?
Mary J. Blige: Well, there's a lot of memorable moments, but [with] Anderson, we actually really got a chance to work in the studio together. I’ve been a fan of his since 2016 when I found out who he was. He's one of the most incredible soulful artists out there. I was like, I have to work with him. And I manifested that and I did, and he was just super amazing and cool. Dave and Favio, same thing. I'm listening to their music and hearing the things that they're saying and it moves me. They're beautiful people as well. I've worked with Usher before, so Usher is really more like a brother. I really did get a nice bunch of people on my album.
BET.com: Vocally on Good Morning Gorgeous, you’re singing in these different pockets. How did it feel to play around with rhythm and cadence (like on “On Top”) to give listeners a diverse, yet flavorful Mary J. Blige?
Mary J. Blige: I love it. I love it. I love doing new things, finding new things, landing in new places, not being stuck in a box. I love the freedom of being an artist. You just get to find what fits you even if it's something that you've never done.
I hope my fans will receive it like they're receiving Good Morning Gorgeous. All the women are receiving it well. Everybody's receiving “Rent Money” and “Amazing” pretty well. so the rest of the album will be easy for them to receive. The lyrical content is what it needs to be and it’s what I needed to say. I hope and believe people are going to love it.
BET.com: This weekend you take the stage at SoFi Stadium for what you’re calling “the most epic thing in music” at this year’s Super Bowl. What was it like to reconnect with Dr. Dre, Snoop, Kendrick, and Eminem?
Mary J. Blige: It's amazing. It's so much fun to work with people you love, not just as family because we all love each other but it stands just to see everybody in their game; in their bag doing their thing. This is going to be a full concert. It's amazing because I love and respect everybody that's on this show with me as artists and as people, I love them on a whole other level.
BET.com: And with the 50th anniversary of hip hop happening soon — how do you see this moment impacting the culture and raising the bar for future Super Bowl Halftime Shows?
Mary J. Blige: Man, it's right on time. It's definitely going to raise everybody up. And it's a place where we people are going to be like, ‘Wow, I believe in what I'm doing. I believe in myself as an artist. I believe because hip hop has come a long way.’ It's as big as Rock & Roll right now and to have it on this platform is just amazing. It's just going to inspire people beyond for real.
BET.com: With Good Morning Gorgeous dropping on Feb. 11 — what do you want your longtime fans and new listeners to take away after playing this project from front to back?
Mary J. Blige: The thing is I can't be a selector for what ministers to people or what helps them through their life. That's going to be left up to them. I believe they'll receive a couple of things from there.
Stream Good Morning Gorgeous on Spotify here and be sure to watch her alongside fellow hip hop icons at the year’s Super Bowl.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Kevin L. Clark is a screenwriter and entertainment director for BET Digital, who covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture, and social justice. Follow him on @KevitoClark.