I gave up on Mary a looooooooong time ago. If I had to stamp a date on it I would say that last album I copped was the "Mary" album back in '99 and that the last time I REALLY messed with a Mary. Now, trust and believe like Keysh that I can hear the Mary J. stans going off right about...now, "I know you loved Mary's No More Drama!" You mean that jawn where Jimmy & Terry played themselves by sampling the theme to the Young & Restless and that throw away generic Dre beat about a "dancery?" Anybody know what that is yet? Nah? Cool. "Well I know you loved Mary's reunion with Puffy on "Love & Life?" Well, love is a mighty strong word. At best it was cool. "Well if that was cool then I KNOW you LOVED The Breakthrough she won a grammy for that!" Yeah, and so did Vanilla Ice and didn't ya'll listen to Phife when he said "I never let a statue tell you how nice I am?" All jokes aside, "The Breakthrough" was cool but it was no "411", "My Life" or "Mary." Hell, I liked "The London Sessions" better then "The Breakthrough." And that's when one of those Mary stans decide to quote Jay, "well, didn't Jay Z say if you want to hear my old shit buy my old albums? Why yes...yes he did. Which is exactly why I haven't brought a new Mary album since the new millineum and I listen to her old shit. Jay's a very smart man so I usually take his advice. But then something crazy happened. Word got to ear that Mary's getting a divorce. Word? Now don't act like I'm the only one who jokes around that Mary can't make dope music anymore because she's happy cause I know I'm not. So, let me get this straight...Mary getting a divorce AND she's recoding a new album called "Strength of A Woman?" Welp...somebody just got my attention and guess what? I'm all ears Mary, do tell.
"Strength of A Woman" sets off with "Love Yourself" which ain't the right way to set anything off. Don't get it twisted, the beat is dope. In fact I recently used the same sample, but it's not the music, it's Mary & Ye. First Mary just sounds like she's just randomly talking and Ye's rhymes have nothing to do with what Mary's randomly talking about but the beat will help most folk get through this snore fest. Not to mention, I'm SO tired of Mary singing over beats Raekwon & Ghost need to be rapping over. It's like Mary's camp thinks that when folk say we ant the old Mary back that we want her singing over hip hop & nothing could be further from the truth. But don't worry about all that hoopla with "Love Yourself" cause "Thick of It" comes in to help save the day cause you've got Mary sounding like the Mary we all know and love and "Set Me Free" just gives us all more of THAT Mary over some live instrumentation that has me wishing drum machines and samplers weren't allowed within 100 feet of a studio with Mary in it cause this is the Mary I want! Not to mention, this is where Mary starts dropping jewels about what she's going through, "how you fix your mouth to say I owe you when you had another bitch and taking trips and shit with money for so long/you must've lost it nigga you won't get a dime, but all you're gonna get, too bad I can't back my time/wasted all this time, but I'm be alright, be just fine/there's a special place in hell for you, you're gonna pay for what you did to me." Hold tight, did Mary just say there's a special place in hell for you? Damn...Mary ain't messing around this go round huh? "It's Me" is a dope uptempo banger and "Glow Up" featuring Quavo, Missy and DJ Khaleed goes so damn hard and shows you the Queen can get dirty in the trap with the best of 'em while telling Kendu to do that dumb shit somewhere else.
The B.A.M. produced "U+ME (Love Lesson)"helps to keep the party going and has Mary breaking ish don't for us, "must've been crazy to think that you loved me, I saw all the signs but I just couldn't say nothing/I did the time across the line for you, tell me what you're thinking case this is what you wanted/should've been the one to hold me when I got lonely, cause every time I think of the lies you told to me, make it easy for me to leave" and "Indestructible" has Mary telling us "you gotta love like you've never been hurt, to find a love that you deserve." "Thank You" is ANOTHER DJ Camper BANGER (this dude is killing this album BTW) written by Philly's finest Jazmine Sullivan, "Survivor" is dope, "Find The Love" will transport you back to 80's block parties and have you doing the Kid n Play kick step with somebody and I can't even get into how dope the Kaytranada produced "Telling The Truth" is. "The title track "Strength of A Woman" is cool and the album ends with "Hello Father" which is Mary having a 'lil talk with God over a soulful Hit Boy beat. Hold tight...did I just say Hit Boy and soulful in the sentence? Why yes, yes I did. But my favorite banger on "Strength..." is "Smile" which is a doooooope duet with Compton's own Prince Charlez and the lyrics?!?!?! Maaaaaaaan, don't even get me started on how beautiful these lyrics are. "You light up my dark, I've been broken for a long time, now I'm standing in the sunshine, it's kinda crazy how you make me smile/cause the winds in my life been blowing but you made me smile/and I wanna know how cause I never thought I had enough, I been holding back a lot of love/but you made me smile, and I wanna know how/cause it's scaring me darling and I'm falling and falling, just make sure you catch me/I'm only thinking bout now, how you make me smile." Come on...who in there right mind ain't feeling those lyrics? "I'm falling and falling just make sure you catch me?" Come on Mary...
So, is "Strength Of A Woman" up there with "411", "My Life" or "Mary?" Nah...not at all. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. "What's the 411" dropped 26 years ago...there's no way I can hold anybody to a standard to recreate something that was THAT dope a quarter of a century later...right? I mean, that would be asking too much...right? Or maybe I don't need another "411" or "My Life" but I just need Mary to make some DOOOOPE music that can spend more then a couple of days in my rotation? I vote for the later cause let's keep it funky ya'll...when's the last time "Growing Pains", "Stronger with Each Tear" or "My Life 2" got some real run in your rotation? Yup...that's what I thought. But don't get it twisted "Strength..." is much doper then any of those albums I just named by a landslide. When Jordan was with the Wizards I couldn't expect him to drop a double nickle like he used to. So I guess I need to come to the realization that the '91-'94 Mary ain't pulling a Willis Reed and walking through that door isn't gonna happen either so I guess I need to be content with this 2017 Mary and truth be told...that 2017 Mary is still dope as hell so I'm good money.
4 of 5 mics