Rolling Stone - 9/18/03, p.703 stars out of 5
- "...LOVE's greatest strength is the same as its predecessors': Blige simmering vocal intensity and the way it slowly boils over into catharic exultation..."
Personnel: Mary J. Blige (vocals); Jay Z. P. Diddy, Eve, Method Man, 50 Cent (rap vocals); Sean Foote, Stevie J., Mario Winans (various instruments); Joel Woolfolk (guitar); Mike Elizondo (keyboards, bass); Ron Feemster (keyboards); Kandace Love, Shannon Jones, Terri Robinson (background vocals).
Producers include: Sean "P.Diddy" Combs, Stevie J., D- Nat, Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, Donald Lawrence.
LOVE & LIFE was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. "Ooh!" was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Perhaps the most telling track on Mary J. Blige's sixth record, LOVE & LIFE, comes on an interlude fairly early in the album, bearing the title "Finally Made It." She rambles back and forth, stream-of-consciousness style about loving her job, about breaks, about spirituality and other things for a little under two minutes. And within the folds of those haphazard moments lies honesty, an earnestness that has flowed through the singer's work since she claimed the crown as Queen of Hip-hop, crooning on WHAT'S THE 411? more than a decade ago.
LOVE & LIFE continues her legacy as she layers resolute, compelling vocals over 1970s-style smooth R&B, suffused through a beat box from the opening track, "Don't Go." As a vanguard at the fusion of hip-hop and R&B, her guest stars transcend the cliche, adding to the songs without overpowering them. Particularly of note are Method Man's turn on "Love @ First Sight" (best line--"you can't spell Mary J. Blige without JB") and Eve's appearance on the funky, off-kilter "Not Today" (as she intros it--"this is another one o' 'em Heartbreak Hotel joints for the ladies"). Through the years, Mary J. has remained true to her game, as real in 2003 as she was when she broke out.