Jesse Boykins III kicked off the night with a rocker/soulful set from his new album Love Apparatus. His latest single "Plain" rocked the room with a Hendrix feel and warmed the crowd up for Jazmine Sullivan. Fresh from a four-year hiatus, the “Bust Your Windows” singer didn’t seem to miss a beat, jumping straight into fan favorites like “Holdin’ You Down (Goin’ In Circles),” and “Lions, Tigers, and Bears.” Closing with a cover of "Killing Me Softly," and Tyler Perry’s Temptation tune “In Love With Another Man” sealed the deal—Jazmine Sullivan is indeed back.
K. Michelle got the crowd fired up with the energy of a young Mary J. Blige singing hits like “Can't Raise A Man” and “V.S.O.P.” Another crowd-pleaser was "Pay My Bills," where she revealed that the not-so-politically-correct-but-relatable song worried the record label. “Y’all could relate, y’all just as crazy as me,” she said about how fans received the controversial “Bills” song. Before closing the show, Michelle made mention about her appearance in Idris Elba’s Rebellious Soul, for fans who just can’t get enough.
The finale gave way to Trey Songz and Nas. Songz swooned the ladies with his current single “Oh Nana,” and personally pointed out fans showing him love, one-by-one. When his shirt came off, the ladies in the world grew frantic.
And the most anticipated performance of the evening, Nas didn’t disappoint. The veteran rapper celebrated the ESSENCE Fest's 20th anniversary along with the 20th anniversary of his first album, Illmatic. Throwbacks like “Ain't Hard To Tell,” and “N.Y. State of Mind” reminded us just why he’s still around. “From cassette days to the CD days to the iTunes days –– it never stops!” he said. We agree, he’s got a track record of hits that keep us grinning!