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Janet Jackson takes control of Essence Fest 2018 with an all-star lineup including Queen Latifah, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliot and more


LISA O’CONNOR/AFP/Getty ImagesJanet Jackson officially took “control” of Essence Fest 2018. The megastar took her State of The World Tour to New Orleans Sunday, giving fans an unforgettable night to cap an already fun-filled weekend full of performances, surprises, and classic tributes.

On Friday, Snoop Dogg was easily the standout. Snoop, who emerged from the California gangster rap scene over two decades ago, began his set by paying homage to his West Coast roots. He offered crowd favorites like, “Murder Was the Case” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name),” before he turned his secular set into one focused on salvation.

In promotion of his new gospel album, Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love, the California rapper — backed by a small chorus and live band — brought out gospel acts like Fred HammondJohn P. Kee, and the soulful Clark Sisters to accompany him and sing some of their gospel hits.

The night ended on a socially conscious note with the team up of The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott. They inspired the sold-out crowd by not only collaborating on signature songs like Badu’s “Bag Lady,” and “Love of My Life,” but by bringing out Anthony Hamilton and gospel hitmaker Kirk Franklin, who had the Superdome literally stomping with excitement.

“Snoop took ’em to church,” Franklin announced. “I’m gonna take them to church in the ’90s.”

On Saturday, the lineup focused on the ladies.

First up was the R&B group Xscape, who took center stage with their on-again-off-again fourth member Kandi Burruss. After getting the audience to, “kick off their shoes and relax their feet” for about an hour, Academy Award winner Queen Latifah then took the reins, belting out some of her early career hits like “Ladies First,” and “U.N.I.T.Y.”

Then, Queen introduced the crowd to some of her hip hop pioneering sisters, that included YoYo, MC Lyte, Missy Elliot, and Salt-N-Pepa. Together, they awed with classic records and dances.

In addition to the legends, Latifah also brought out singer Brandy and Remy Ma for impromptu performances.

On Sunday, fans were treated to a New Jack Swing courtesy of singer-songwriter Teddy Riley. Bringing out artists like Tank, Ginuwine, Guy, and Keith Sweat, Teddy’s set had the crowd singing right along.

Later, American Idol alum Fantasia Barrino hit the stage, offering an emotional performance. 

Barrino shared the story of her younger brother, Xavier, who was badly injured in a motorcycle accident in 2017. Using her song “Lose to Win” to narrate her emotional journey, and offer the message that, “sometimes you’ve got to lose to win again,” Fantasia’s brother surprised the crowd by later wheeling himself on stage.

After kneeling beside him, Fantasia became overwhelmed with tears and ended her set shortly thereafter.

Janet, meanwhile, proved to the perfect ending to a phenomenal weekend.

After taking fans on a musical tour of some of her hits, which included “The Pleasure Principle” and “I Get So Lonely,” Janet took on a serious tone.

“It was really hard for me,” she said, referring to the recent death of her father, Joe Jackson. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to move forward, if I should cancel this festival, cancel the tour.”

According to Janet, her brothers helped to remind her what her father would have wanted.

“My father would have said, ‘Just please finish what you started, and I will be there with you every step of the way in your heart,’” she said.

Janet then dedicated her next song, “Together Again” to her father, saying, he would want us to, “celebrate his life.”

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