I was invited to the 20th Anniversary of ESSENCE Festival will floor seat tickets to every night’s concert! What a privilege! In addition to eating everything that I could, because of course Nola has some of the best food you can ever ask for, I was able to take in the top of the line musical experience from some of my favorite performers of all time. It was truly a life changing experience. Ready for it? Here it goes:
Thursday July 3rd
For the first time in history, ESSENCE has added a new night to their weekend line up for ESSENCE Festival. The first night, which definitely contained more of the contemporary artists, I deemed the “turn up” night. The show started with someone whose voice I’ve missed dearly, someone whose voice is one of the few that gives me chills, Jazmine Sullivan. She is everything! K Michelle also did her thing, providing back to back powerhouse vocals. Trey Songz got the crowd insanely HYPE! I’m not the biggest Trey Songz fan, but the man definitely has hits and knows how to get the crowd excited, on their feet and partying singing word for word. The night capped off with Nas – one of the few rap performers who is able to hold their own at ESSENCE Festival. He did his thing and represented for NY in Nola. Performing hits from “Oochie Wally” to “One Mic,” “If I Ruled The World” to “The World Is Yours,” the performance proved that Nas doesn’t age and neither do his timeless hits.
Friday July 4th
The most life changing night in my concert life, ever. The Purple Man – Prince. Every year ESSENCE has a headliner – the big draw to ensure that the droves of people come out to fill the seats of the Mercedez-Benz superdome in New Orleans, LA. Year pasts have been headlined by Beyonce, Janet Jackson, but to have Prince, who seldomly does shows, headline, puts this Festival on a whole different level – perfect timing considering it was the 20th Anniversary. He did every single you could imagine from “1999,” “Sexy MF,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend” ending with the most powerful closer, “Purple Rain.” The entire time Prince was on stage, he was rocking out on his guitar, shaking his groove thang from every angle, making you question exactly what his genes are about, and making sure his fro was intact. Opening up for Prince were his hand selected faves Janelle Monae, Nile Rogers and impromptu moments with Leann LaHavas.
Saturday July 5th
YES to the 90s! My favorite era of music. The Roots KILLED IT! One of my top 3 favorite artists came on stage shortly after – Ms Jilly from Philly, Jill Scott. I’ve seen her perform several times and it was her usual level of awesomeness, stage command and vocal ability that she flexed on stage. She donned a new Cleopatra style haitcut and 70s hot pants. We were all here for it! The highlight of my night however, was Ms. Mary J. Blige who is apparently a mainstay at ESSENCE Festival, having performed more years than not on the mainstage. Mary took me back to my childhood with songs from “Love No Limit,” “I Can Love You,” “Everything,” “Reminisce,” “I’m Going Down,” “Real Love,” just hit after hit after hit. She looked and sounded fantastic. The entire crowd was on their feet singing word for word, being happy with Mary, being sad with Mary, being angry with Mary. It was emotional, it was raw, it was everything we love about Mary J. Blige.
Sunday July 6th
At this point in my ESSENCE Festival experience I have already decided that I had a blast. I was drained, in a good way, but ready to see yet another one of my favorite singers hit the stage: Erykah Badu. Although I entered the Superdome one last time with one eye closed ready to go to sleep, Ms. Badu turned out to be my favorite performer of the entire weekend. There was so much personality to match those unparalleled vocals. From “On & On” to “Danger” to “Love of My Life” and everything in between, she laughed, she got hood, she got lady-like and reflected on the legacy of music that she has left us, and is still working on. This woman has so much charisma and was the perfect way to end my experience at Festival. Absolutely, LOVE.
So my takeaway from ESSENCE Festival: it is mega-impactful, it brings together so many of your favorite soul performers under one roof, the crowd appeared to be more than 400,000 - a sea of music lovers, there is nothing like it, and I would love to be back!