We are in the final stretch; this was the LAST DAY of the 2015 Essence Music Festival. Our day started out again over at the Convention Center. Since today was Sunday, and as always at EMF, there were more events geared to the spiritual aspect of things. The Essence Fest attendees get taken to church from well known pastors and musical selections from the country’s top Gospel and Christian artists. This year saw the incomparable Kim Burrell as the honoree of the yearly gospel tribute. This was a totally free show for people, and included special performances by Smokie Norful, Yolanda Adams, Jonathan McReynolds and more. The Spirit filled the place as you could see people being moved as they waved their hands and began to tear up. Even Ms. Burrell got hit by The Spirit as she jumped out of her seat and grabbed a mic and proceeded to sing. She had a couple of her celebrity friends (India.Arie, Chrisette Michelle, Anita Wilson and Lalah Hathaway) to join her in song.
Footage courtesy of Milo Land on Youtube
Over at the Verizon booth, Omarion was chatting it up with Terrance J about how it feels to be back on the top of the charts and describing his excitement for his performance at the Superdome that night. He also had the opportunity to meet his legion of fans and take pictures with each and every one of them.
The McDonald’s booth was again the hot spot for R&B live performances, when 112 took the stage. It certainly felt like the late 1990’s all over again seeing them move, groove and sing to all of the songs that we knew the words to.
Unlike the past couple of days, today was a rainy one, so it made getting around a little bit more of a pain, so our hike to the Superdome was less than pleasurable, but we made it. Tonight was a continuation of the comeback theme, as Floetry, who hasn’t been together as a group in over 9 years, would take the mainstage, while former Bad Boy rapper Ma$e, “southern hummingbird” Tweet, and Mr. “posed to be” Omarion all took reign of the superlounges.
It was 7 p.m. and it was time for Floetry to take the stage. As we said earlier, it was raining today, so that had somewhat of an effect on the early attendance at the concerts. Fans took their time making it to the Superdome, possibly holding out for the rain to stop, so when Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart emerged on the stage, the venue was less than half full, but that didn’t stop them from doing what they came to do. With the “Songstress” tending to one side of the stage, and the “Floacist” on the other, they took the fans that were there and grabbed them into their performance. If people had possibly forgot who Floetry was in their absence, then they quickly remembered by the time was over. Seeing them back on stage together just felt right, nothing forced or fake about it. When the opening chords for “Say Yes” came on, everybody took a deep sigh, and I can’t tell you how many “THAT’S MY SONG!” comments I heard from the onlookers. Marsha even had time to shine when she performed her solo song “I Hope She Cheats On You”. The only unfortunate thing about the set was that it was too short, I honestly would have liked for them to be on stage for longer than 45 minutes.
Upstairs the Superlounges were getting warmed up. I got a chance to catch a bit of SZA’s set in the Ford Superlounge. This was the first time that I had ever seen her perform live, so I had no idea of what to expect. The crowd was modest, full with a younger demographic. I felt like one of the older people in there, but it was all about the vibes. What she gave was a lot of energy, running all across the stage, slinging her hair in rock star motions and hitting a couple of dance moves. From what I saw, it was an enjoyable set and I gather that there is more to come from this young music starlet.
I didn’t get a chance to get to see the other artist in the Superlounges because I wanted to get back to the press room for Floetry’s press conference. About 50% of the roaster of artist performing in those lounges made it feel like #ThrowBackThursday, which isn’t a bad thing. Ma$e took over the Coca-Cola Art of Hip-Hop Superlounge and probably gave the crowd a big taste of what it was like to live during the Bad Boy era of music in the late 1990’s. Tweet headlined the Verizon Now Playing lounge and gave a heartfelt performance, as she always does. Most of the songs came from her debut album “Southern Hummingbird”, but nobody cared since that CD resonated with a lot of females at the time of its release. With this Singer/Songwriter, there is no denying the feeling that every word is meant and expressed from real experiences. Omarion also rocked the Verizon stage, showing why he was the lead singer of his group B2K and a dominate force in music at one point. His song “Posed To Be” is one of his biggest hits as a solo performer, and to have a crowd sing along with him had to be a surreal moment, and one to be proud of.
Fan footage courtesy of Otis Jefferson on Youtube
Reigning “queen” of the Essence Festival, Mary J. Blige came out on the stage to much cheer. She is a constant headliner year after year, and for people to see you continuously and not complain about it being “the same old show”, says a lot about you as an artist. As per usual, she killed her performance, evoking much emotion while singing tracks from her 1992 debut album “What’s the 411?” all the way to her newer songs. From “Real Love” to “Baby I Love You”, the singer “Mary bopped” all around the stage in her red pantsuit as visuals of New York were painted on the video screens. Even the most seasoned EMF attendee, or MJB fan wasn’t prepared for what was about to take place. Midway through her setlist, she brought out Method Man and they performed the 1995 “ghetto love” anthem “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” and the whole place exploded. Never had I seen anyone fan out that much at one of Mary’s concerts, as I witnessed that night. It was truly a moment in history that I will never forget.
Essence with a different route this year to close out the Festival, not only did they go with a hip-hip artist, but they went with a much younger hip-hop artist. Kendrick Lamar, the man who everyone loves in hip-hop today was going to be the lasting impression that anyone had of the 2015 festivities. The energy that he displayed reminds hardcore fans and newbies alike why he’s one of the best to bless the mic. Strolling out in a pair of grey sweats, a cream cap and a black polo, K. Dot took command and held court from the beginning to end. Things kicked off with his track “Money Trees”, backed by a complete band, for a relatively “new” hip-hop artist, this isn’t something that we see often, but we love the idea of it. From then, he moved on through hits catalog of songs “M.A.A.D City”, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Alright”, “Swimming Pools” and much more. Humble as always, Lamar took a moment out to speak to the crowd and shared that his very first show took place in New Orleans, and albeit may have been a smaller crowd, they showed him the same love that the crowd is showing him tonight. It’s pretty safe to say that after his display at the closing festivities, we’re sure to see him bless the Essence Fest stage again.
Fan footage courtesy of MsLayila on Youtube
Check out our gallery of a what was going on over at the Convention Center.