Kendrick Lamar; Erika Goldring/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) — This year’s Essence Music Festival did not disappoint. The three-night, star-studded music show once again proved it could bring generations together by paying homage to music legends, like Prince, while offering fan favorites like Maxwell, Kendrick Lamar and Puff Daddy to help close out the show.
Opening night was all about Maxwell. The Friday-night headliner had just released blackSUMMERS’night, his first album in seven years, on the same date, but interestingly enough only gave fans one song from his album — his Billboard chart hit, “Lake by the Ocean.” The R&B soul singer instead choose to keep it familiar, offering an array of his classic hits, and later paying homage to Prince with his rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
In addition to Maxwell, Friday night was an evening of veteran talent. Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and New Edition both performed their classic hits, reminding fans what soulful R&B sounds like and reverting back to moves that were signature in their era. New Edition managed to stay in sync with their ’80s choreography, while Babyface tried something a bit different. The “Whip Appeal” singer jumped off the stage, partially shirtless, to meet fans in their seats as he ran around the Superdome.
Saturday night was a night for the lambs – Mariah Carey‘s lambs. This being her Essence debut, Mimi opened her show with “Shake It Off” as her male dancers carried her out on a reclined sofa. During her set, the R&B diva surprised the crowd by bringing out Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri for the SoSo Def remix of “Honey,” explaining to the crowd that she personally enjoyed this version and not the remixed one [featuring Puff Daddy and The Lox], saying, “I personally like this one the best, but you didn’t hear me say that.”
Sunday night was a celebration of the legends as well as the new generation. The night kicked off with a celebratory Prince tribute that included Luke James singing his rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy,” Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone belting out a heartfelt “Purple Rain” and the New Orleans’ Stooges Brass Band and dancers marching and performing on the Superdome floor.
Ciara later followed, offering up her musical “Goodies,” while Kendrick Lamar brought the crowd to its feet with “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and later “King Kunta” and “Alright”. Not to be outdone by Kendrick’s ability to revitalize a once-waning crowd, Puff Daddy made a grand entrance for his close-out performance that included Mase, 112, Faith Evans and French Montana.
Seemingly happy to be around his former crew once again, Puff ended his set and the Essence Music Festival with his Bad Boy Family reunited, letting fans know that he “can’t stop” and “won’t stop.”
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