Even back in 1993, it might not have been the greatest idea to have CeCe Peniston and Mary J. Blige sharing a six-minute stretch on the Soul Train Music Awards. But it happened, and we have proof!
When this segment aired, CeCe had just been anointed as the new dance diva. Her hit “Finally” was all over the radio at the end of ’91 and beginning of ’92, and her debut album’s third single, “Keep on Walkin'” helped the diva-in-training get fans on the hip-hop side of the tracks as well (a video featuring rap legend Big Daddy Kane didn’t hurt).) Meanwhile, Mary’s debut, What’s the 411?, just might have been the R&B album of 1992. You couldn’t go anywhere in New York City without hearing it (or one of it’s remixes) blasting out of the radio. It wound up scoring five Top 20 R&B hits, including the #1 smashes “You Remind Me” and “Real Love”.
Mary was already starting to make noise in the press for having a bad attitude and basically being a hot mess, and this performance shows that a very raw Mary had her B-girl swagger in full effect. In contrast, CeCe is a bit more demure. However, despite CeCe’s exhortations to the crowd to get moving, it’s MJB who gets the sedate award show crowd off their asses. Also worth noting-despite a reasonable amount of choreography-both ladies sing LIVE, and even though Mary’s pitch issues (well documented at the time) are present here, her energy more than makes up for it.
Although CeCe sort of faded into oblivion over the next few years (her next two albums found her leaning in a much more urban direction), Mary, of course, still holds her rightful place as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul 20 years after the release of her first single. She’s come a loooong way from the girl who did the B-girl bounce on the Soul Train Awards back in ’93!