The music for the song was originally created during a jam session between producer Dr. Dre and musicians Camara Kambon, Mel-Man and Michael Elizondo. It was just a skeleton of an idea and was originally earmarked for rapper Rakim. Blige got to hear the demo and decided she wanted to write something to it, so together with her brother Bruce Miller, Asiah The Continent and Luchi Lodge, they contributed the lyrics and melody.
Dr. Dre produced Blige's vocals at a distance because at the time he was busy filming the movie Training Day.
The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks from November 3, 2001. It was Blige's first Hot 100 #1 single. According to Billboard magazine, Blige didn't usually look at the charts, but when the song remained at the summit for a sixth week she checked the tally for the first time and said, "Whoa, this is really real!"
The title never appears in the lyric. Blige's mentor Sean Combs referred to his crew as "The Family," and using such a benign title helped earn the song airplay on adult-skewing radio stations that might balk at a song about getting crunk on the dance floor. That title is also a proven winner from a previous generation: Sly & the Family Stone had a #1 hit in 1971 with their "Family Affair."
Dr. Dre thought the song about cutting loose on the dance floor needed a bit more depth and asked Blige to write a bridge. "That's the most spiritual part of the song," Blige told Billboard magazine, "because it's saying we don't need haters, we're just trying to love one another: We're here on this Earth together and we have to get along, so please leave your problems outside and try to make it work."
This was used in the 2002 comedies Friday After Next, starring Ice Cube, and Undercover Brother, starring Eddie Griffin.
This was featured on The Sopranos in the Season 6 episode "Johnny Cakes."
Blige performed this at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Blige, who struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction throughout most of her career, wondered if the clubbing song made her an irresponsible role model. "One reason I turned my life around is that I realized millions of fans were following my example. I don't want to be responsible for killing us. I want to be responsible for uplifting us. In the song 'Family Affair,' I sing about getting drunk," she told Oprah in an O Magazine interview. "When some people hear those lyrics, they use it as a reason to have another shot of liquor. Later I thought, 'Should I take the word drunk out of that record?' Music has power."
For many, this was the first time they heard the word "Crunk" ("Let's get it crunk, we gonna' have fun..."). The word means "crazy drunk" and was also a new form of music popularized by Lil' Jon that blew up the following year with the song "Get Low."