Ella Mai is a student of 90s R&B so it meant the world to her when Mary J. Blige appeared on her new album, 'Heart On My Sleeve.'
Derek White/Getty Images | Kevin Winter/Getty Images Ella Mai Opens Up About Mary J. Blige Mentorship: 'There's Nobody Else I Want To Guide Me' Published on:Jun 4, 2022, 6:00 AM by 1 Exclusive Ella Mai is one of the few R&B singers who can capture their audience with hypnotizing vocals thatll have people clenching their chests in emotion. The British star is a true student of 90s R&B as she grew up absorbing the sounds of TLC, Mariah Carey and more, helping her craft her own unique style. However, one particular singer rises above the rest in Ella Mais book: the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige. Ella Mai grew up listening to Blige thanks to her mother playing her music religiously in their household and it wasnt long before the Queen became a source of inspiration. The R&B legend shows up at the end of two tracks on Ellas latest album, Heart On My Sleeve Not Another Love Song and Sink or Swim where she mentors her younger counterpart about navigating love. The album is Ella Mais most honest and personal to date and as she explains to HipHopDX, there was no one better to help her tell her story. Mary is one of my all-time favorites, Ella Mai says. Shes been a part of my life since I was very, very young, so when I was putting the album together I wanted somebody else to tell this story for me as opposed to me telling it through the music. I wanted someone to guide me almost, and theres nobody else I want to guide me if Im speaking about love. Mary J. Bliges appearance on Not Another Love Song finds her advising Ella Mai that relationships will never be easy and not to be a victim of her past. On Sink or Swim, she speaks on the aftermath of a breakup and the importance of not blaming oneself for the actions of others. As MJB says, Guard that heart. When I think about that and my musical inspirations, its Mary J. Blige, Ella adds. She came into the studio where all we did was have a conversation and I played her some of the records, and she told me how much she loved it and how incredible it was. It was an honor for Ella to hear Mary J. Blige speak about her music in such a positive light, but at the same time, she says its a weird feeling since shes idolized the Real Love singer all her life. Thats what makes the interactions between the two on Heart On My Sleeve unique. Ella Mai is coming into her own as a singer, and it feels as if Mary J. Blige is grooming her to be the next one to carry the proverbial torch. The London native was Bliges special guest at her Strength of a Woman festival and summit in Atlanta in May. However, Ella hadnt considered putting that soulful style of R&B on her back until now. I didnt think about her passing the torch to me, but now that you say that, its an interesting concept, she admits. Ive had so many conversations with her and have learned a lot. When I played her the album, she explained how it seemed like I had been through some shit. She told me, Listen, its life, and it is what it is. We all know Marys story because shes been very, very honest with everything. If theres one person Ill always take advice from, its her. If the torch is being passed down, I dont want to put words out there, but if so Im honored. May 20, 2022 The follow-up to her 2018 self-titled debut, Heart On My Sleeve, marks another quality album to her growing discography. It took some time to get to this point, but shes evolved into a different type of artist, one that isnt afraid to let it all out and understands her position as one of the leading singers in this game. Mary J.Blige didnt have to lend her voice to the album given her legendary status, but her cameos and conversations with Ella shows the genre is in good hands. Check out the first part of HipHopDXs conversation with Ella Mai here and stream Heart On My Sleeve below. Subscribe to DX Newsletter