ESSENCE Entertainment Director Cori Murray was in the house for the kickoff of the Bad Boy Family Reunion at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday night. The show got us all hype for Puff Daddy & the Family to play ESSENCE Festival June 30-July 3 in New Orleans. Although it was a male-heavy artist roster, Cori says it was the ladies who really stole the show. Here are her six highlights:
1. Lil Kim
She came on the stage like she never left—full of attitude and her style of feminine swag. I was quickly reminded of the blueprint she left behind and how few female rappers (albeit Nicki Minaj) filled her void. After Lil Kim’s performance, I’m ready for a solo Kim tour. Songs: “Quiet Storm” “Big Momma” “F—— You,” “Lighters Up,” “Queen Bitch.”
2. Mary J. Blige
I tweeted that I’ve seen MJB a million times, but tonight it was epic. Before she comes up through the stage, Diddy’s talking to the crowd about remembering what a low point he was at in his career at the same time he had just learned that baby Justin was on the way. He said he asked God for someone and He sent him Mary J. Blige, and on cue she comes up to the stage. The crowd goes crazy when those keys on “Real Love” start piping in. MJB's classic dance is exaggerated, and we all love it. She’s feeling the love and her body responds accordingly. She gives us “Be Happy” “Love No Limit” and “I’m Going Down,” with the crowd singing every lyric for her.
For me, this was the act I longed to see back together. All three ladies still look good. Their time felt short on stage, but that could because I’ve missed them so. Songs: “Trippin,” “No One Else,” “Kissing You"
4. Faith Evans
Surrounded by all the bravado, Faith held her own, and she sang her silky classics sounding as good (if not better) than the day she recorded them. Songs: “No Other Love,” “I Love You,” “You Gets No Love” “You Used to Love Me,” “Soon As I Get Home”
5. Jay Z
For the boys, hands down Jay’s Z “PSA” was the crowd rocker like it always is. I know we were all there in celebration of Big, but clearly Jay holds that crown now and respect was given.
I wasn’t expecting Usher, but he took over that stage like the world star he is. Performing only snippets of “U Don’t Have to Call,” “I Need a Girl” and “Bad Girl,” Usher was a reminder what it means to command an arena. But what I loved, he didn’t have a chip on his shoulder: Next to Puffy, he looked like the little boy Puffy once mentored, but when he started spinning and sliding across the floor, you knew Usher had graduated into a superstar.