It’s the 20th Anniversary of Essence Fest and there is a hot line-up to celebrate. The festival gets things poppin’ off with Family Day on July 3rd at Woldenberg Riverfront – gates open at 11 p.m. and performances will include Nigel Hall Band and Rappers Delight. Thursday marks the beginning of shows at the Superdome and Superlounges with the announcement of Nas, Trey Songz, K. Michelle and Jazmine Sullivan for Thursday. Friday is the Fest’s big headlining act with Prince and “special guests.”
Among the other headliners for the week are Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Lionel Richie, and Erykah Badu. Superlounge acts will include Eve, Naughty by Nature, 112, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Doug E. Fresh, and more. For those of us unable to make it out to the Dome, there’s a wide range of other dope activities to take part it in. There will be themed Day Parties for 1 p.m. at HOB with DJ Biz Markie (July 4) and DJ MC Lyte (July 5), the EmpowerU workshop series at the Convention Center, and also the 365 Black Awards happening Saturday from 10 – 1 p.m. at the New Orleans Theater.
The #YesWeCode Hackathon will be happening too. The Hackathon partners Qeyno Labs, Yes We Code, and Essence to bring together 200 members of the tech industry alongside 50 high potential youth to focus on engaging solutions in topics centered around education, environmental sustainability, restorative justice, music/entertainment, and health/wellness. Participating organizations include Positive Space, Blue1647, and The Level Playing Field Institute. Whether you’ll spend Essence enjoying the family at Woldenberg, singing “I Want to Be Your Lover” in the Dome, enjoying your day at House of Blues, or working for the betterment of yourself and the community, it’s going to be a damn good weekend.
Below are highlights of some not-to-miss events and performances selected by Where Y’at’s staff. Enjoy!
Essence #NOWPLAYING Concert Series
Thursday July 3; $40 GA
To kickoff it’s 20th anniversary celebration, Essence Fest is producing it’s first Thursday concert entitled “Now Playing” separate from the standard Friday - Sunday schedule. The festival aims to serve the local community by offering a unique concert with intimate floor access seats only giving New Orleans natives and the early bird tourist a chance to take part in what will be one of the most historic Essence Fest before the monsoon of festival goers take over the city. “Now Playing” comes equipped with a powerful artist lineup including legendary headliner Nas, Trey Songs, VH1 reality star K. Michelle, and very missed songstress, Ms. Jazmine Sullivan.
Hip hop icon Nas graces New Orleans for a second time this year to celebrate his own 20th anniversary of the release of critically acclaimed album, Illmatic. The poetic genius also had a big win recently at the Tribeca Film Festival with the premier of his must see Time Is Illmatic documentary, which has already attracted big deals internationally. Soulful songstress Jazmine Sullivan will join Nas to perform for the first time since her industry hiatus in 2011. Impressed with her latest single feat Meek Mill entitled “Dumb,” I ‘m expecting Ms. Sullivan to bring some heat on her upcoming album Reality Show, which I’m sure she spent plenty time cooking in the studio while she was out of the spotlight. Prepare to also get serenaded by the esquisite voice and physique of Trey Songz as well as R&B princess, K. Michelle. The combination of hit songs amongst the 4 talented artists creates the perfect vibe to start the fun filled Essence Festival weekend. Follow me on IG @TelleInk and visit www.TelleInk.com to download Telle Ink’s concert mixes to prep for each day and subscribe for coverage of select Essence Festival events all weekend! –Telle Ink
Friday, 8:20 p.m. — Main Stage
Think of Janelle Monae as a female version of James Brown: stage shows are filled with riotous dancing, with her extended band suited up in black and white. Her soul-filled music blends the wall-of-sound era with modern freshness. Since 2008, she has garnered esteemed awards left and right like Best Track from the NME Awards, Best Art Direction from the MTV Video Music Awards, and several Grammy nominations. Monae’s latest album, The Electric Lady, reached No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. –Emily Hingle
Saturday, 8:50 p.m. — Main Stage
If you are looking for a legendary hip-hop group, choose The Roots. Founded in 1987, The Roots haven’t missed a beat making great hits. According to the Essence Fest website, The Roots began their career playing bucket drums and competing with Boyz II Men in high school. The "Seed 2.0” and “Break You Off” featuring Musiq Soulchild off Phrenology can be considered as some of the best hip-hop songs of all time. Now the house band for Jimmy Fallon, the group has also been nominated for 12 Grammy Awards including two wins in 2010 for Best Album and Best Vocal Performance. –Lauren Adam
Sunday, 7:50 p.m. — Main Stage
Erykah Badu has been an influential founder of the neo-soul movement to a generation of kindred spirits such as Solange and Janelle Monae. She is the Mother Essence of neo-soul, multiplatinum selling artist, writer, producer, and activist who has given us timeless music since her first release, Baduism, in 1997. She has performed for sold out audiences across the world and won countless awards for her music. Ms. Badu will visit New Orleans Sunday July 6th to entertain Essence Music Festival’s main stage with her long list of great music. –Telle Ink
Doug E. Fresh
Saturday, 9 p.m. — Superlounge
Doug E. Fresh is a pioneer rapper, producer, and artist who earned the title of Human Beat Box. Originally he was part of the Get Fresh Crew, a duo responsible for some of the ultimate hip-hop classics. Most recently, Fresh’s artistry was re: popularized by Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie” which brought back some of his trademark dance moves. If you’re out at Essence this year, I have one piece of advice: put your arms out front, lean side to side. They gon’ be on you when they see you hit that Dougie right. –Lauren Adam